Quota 'missing targets'

LAST week's decision to increase the daily quota of migrants from China will do little to reunite many of the families who should benefit, say spouses waiting to join their partners in Hong Kong.

They say their future remains in the hands of corrupt mainland officials, who allow those who can pay big bribes to jump the queue.

Hong Kong authorities are being pressed to fight for a say in the allocation of quotas to ensure impartiality.

From July 1, Hong Kong is increasing the daily quota of one-way permits from 105 to 150, with 15 extra places going to spouses separated from their Hong Kong partners for more than 10 years, and 30 for children who, under the Basic Law, will have the right of abode in the territory after 1997.

Half an hour's drive from the Lowu border crossing, a village in Shenzhen is temporary home to many women and children waiting to be reunited with husbands and fathers in Hong Kong.

Many four-storey apartments in Dongxin Ridge have been either bought or rented by Hong Kong men for their separated families. Every day, dozens of men cross the border to see them and take them food and other necessities.

One 32-year-old woman, married to Hong Kong man Tse Man-fai, 48, said: 'No matter how many times the Hong Kong Government announces an increase in quotas, we do not benefit from it.' She has sought a one-way permit from the Public Security Bureau in her hometown of Huidong about 10 times in the past eight years, but has always been turned away with the same answer: 'There are many people waiting to go to Hong Kong. You had better try next time. We have no application forms available.' Three years ago, Mrs Tse tried to send her son, then aged five, to Hong Kong.

'We paid 1,000 yuan to get an application form for my son. And the officer said: 'No problem - your son is on the list now'.' Last year, Mrs Tse was informed her son was 20th on the list. But six months later, he was 39th.

She inquired again a few weeks ago: 'They said my son was still on the list, but they declined to tell me how long he had to wait. Most ridiculous of all, my friend's son who was more than 100 places down, moved to Hong Kong a few months ago.' Last year, Mrs Tse applied for a two-way or temporary permit to go to Hong Kong where she gave birth to a second child. 'I paid them thousands of dollars to fix the duration of my permit at a time when the birth was expected.' She is now caring for the baby in China, but knows she can send him to school in Hong Kong when the time comes.

Another spouse, Mrs Yip, 34, first applied for a permit more than 12 years ago. She said it was common for people to pay bribes to jump the queue.

'They will not ask you to pay money directly. But they will give you a hint, by saying they need money to renovate their house, buy some electric appliances or build a new home. The money ranges from 50,000 to 150,000 yuan,' Mrs Yip said.

The women thought last week's announcement would only make the problem worse.

Many of the frustrated villagers are pinning their hopes on entering Hong Kong after the 1997 transfer of power.

A member of the Immigration Tribunal, Dr Stephen Tang Lung-wai, urged the Hong Kong Government to press hard for a say in the allocation of quotas.

He also pointed out that allowing in more children than women led to 'heartbreak' decisions over whether the youngsters should stay with their mothers or fathers.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisations, said it was an illusion to suggest more quotas could solve the problem if Hong Kong had no say in their allocation.