Chung Yeuk-lam's temporary home in Jutang stands in front of a vast green paddy field. The two-storey house in a small village in Haifeng, Guangdong, owned by her uncle, has a floor area of at least 500 square feet and is modestly decorated. Inside, the television and telephone put the family in touch with the outside world. It is almost midnight. The eight-year-old and her two older sisters are still playing a popular cartoon card game. Yet the scene is totally unfamiliar to Yeuk-lam. For 4,500 yuan (about $4,200), the child and her mother were smuggled out of China when she was only three months old and have been living in Hong Kong illegally ever since. But this week, as Yeuk-lam became the first child illegal immigrant from the mainland to be forcibly repatriated, she also returned to an unfamiliar land and siblings she had never met. When she met Zhouxuan, 13, for the first time on Tuesday, Yeuk-lam said: 'I've seen you on television. You look the same as you appeared on screen.' (Both her sisters have recently appeared in a Hong Kong programme.) Zhouxuan, who won an award for excellent performance at school last year, was pleased to meet her sister. But she repeatedly said 'not in China'. Although they have different personalities, the two sisters have come to know each other quickly. Zhouxuan has already promised to help her sister with her studies. For Yeuk-lam, it is her first step towards a life that is alien to her. But getting along with new family members is just one of the many hurdles she has to face. First, Yeuk-lam has to register as a mainland citizen. With no proof of identity, she cannot attend school. She also has to join the queue for a one-way permit to Hong Kong - which is already very long. At the moment, the daily quota is 150, with 66 places allocated for children. According to the Guangdong Public Security Bureau (PSB), officials have received 137,859 applications from children born to Hong Kong parents for settlement in the territory since 1993. So far, 95,214 have been verified and passed to Hong Kong officials who eventually approved 62,228 of them. Of those, 27,528 children are still waiting, with the other 34,700 already in the territory. Guangdong officials are also verifying 42,645 cases which the Hong Kong authorities have no knowledge of. Like all children born to Hong Kong permanent residents, even though they are now living in the mainland, they will be given the right of abode in the territory after July 1, as stipulated by the Basic Law. However, because the wait for a one-way permit issued by the PSB can take years, many parents decide to jump the queue by either paying bribes to officials or having their children smuggled into the territory by snakeheads. A total of 1,590 juvenile illegal immigrants have been arrested so far this year, compared with just 754 recorded for the whole of last year. Indeed, Yeuk-lam's story is all too common in Jutang. To most residents in this farming village, where an average monthly income is between 300 to 400 yuan, it is a sign of pride and luck to have a family member in Hong Kong. Hawker Yang Jianwei, 25, a native of Jutang, said many locals were attracted by the modern and glamorous life in the territory portrayed in most Hong Kong-produced movies. Although they knew it was unlawful to enter Hong Kong without a proper permit, many still took the gamble because if the worst came to the worst, they would only be fined. 'It is common that pregnant women [with Hong Kong husbands] sneak into Hong Kong to give birth. Hong Kong looks wonderful in the movies and videos. We all know [Andy] Lau Tak-wah,' Mr Yang said. Many villagers also have few qualms about smuggling children to the territory. 'There isn't any other solution, is there?' asked two housewives. 'Their husbands and fathers are not here.' But little do the mainlanders realise how dangerous the smuggling is. A six-year-old boy from another coastal city, Shantou (who was among more than 20 children repatriated to China on Tuesday) was also taken to the territory last month by snakeheads. His mother, who only agreed to be referred to as Mrs Cheung, was issued a one-way permit two years ago and left the boy at her mother's home at Shekou. 'The [one-way permit] quota for Guangdong is very tight compared with that for Beijing and Shanghai,' she says. 'They usually reject an application to children under the age of five. When the authorities gave me the permit, I was told I could either get one for myself or one for my son.' However, no more was said about the boy's application at the time - not to mention a scheduled time when he could be reunited with his family in Hong Kong. The parents finally risked the boy's life, and more than 1,000 yuan, in the hands of a snakehead. 'We refused to let him come by boat. It seems quite dangerous,' says Mrs Cheung, who admitted she did not check which land route her son was being smuggled through. Immediately, she surrendered her son to the police in an attempt to get a temporary identity paper, or so-called hang kai zi. Mrs Cheung thought he would go free, but he was eventually repatriated. 'But without the hang kai zi, it is no use keeping the child like a prisoner here,' she said. Ironically, the mother was told her son had been issued a one-way permit last week. 'Had I known a permit would be granted this quickly, I wouldn't have had my son smuggled into Hong Kong.' Secretary of Justice-designate Elsie Leung Oi-sie says the system for allowing mainland children to join their parents needs to be revamped. She says the problem with the one-way permit system is its inconsistency. People from different areas of China have to wait varying lengths of time to be allowed in. This discrepancy was further highlighted by information released this week by the Security Branch that shows the wait for mainlanders reuniting with their families can vary from a few years to decades. According to government data, while 68 per cent of one-way permit holders waited fewer than three years, 32 applicants in the past two years received their permit after waiting more than 25 years. Society for Community Organisations spokesman Sze Lai-shun said these figures showed the unfairness in the existing system: 'It shows the seriousness of corruption in the mainland.' Back in Jutang, though Yeuk-lam's parents are staying with relatives temporarily, the Chungs will soon need to look for their own place. Her father Chung Man-kwan plans to move back to his own house nearby but may not be aware that the run-down property has been rented to a labourer from Sichuan for 25 yuan a month. Yeuk-lam, who has been educated in Hong Kong, also has to learn simplified characters. Indeed, future planning is an even tougher task for the Chungs who hope to settle in the territory. Both Mr Chung and his wife, Chung Chau Chuk-ngan, 35, have continuously criticised the Hong Kong Government for treating them unfairly though Mr Chung has been granted emergency assistance of 2,600 yuan. 'I can only plan for my future one step at a time now,' the father of five says.