Is there any law in China or Hong Kong that gives the Chinese authorities the power to screen and sanction mainlanders' applications to emigrate to Hong Kong? More specifically, is there anything in either the Chinese constitution or the Basic Law vesting in mainland authorities the right to screen applications? The answer to both questions is no. Nothing in the law of the land or its constitution stipulates that the awarding of one-way permits is the prerogative of mainland authorities. So what is this nonsense that the Hong Kong administration has to seek the mainland authorities' approval to get back its power to vet one-way permit applications? Why should the Government ask for permission to do a duty it is the only body legitimised to undertake? It would be totally unthinkable anywhere in the world for the immigration control of a territory to be exercised by officials of another administration. Hong Kong people who want to emigrate to Canada, the United States or Australia, and apply for residence visas from any of those countries, know this for a fact. Even in China, under the resident permit system, when a mainlander plans to resettle from one province to another, approval for entry is vested in the recipient province. So why should Hong Kong be any exception? The absurd arrangement we have now has already caused serious problems. The recent revelation that more than 13,000 one-way permits potentially available for Hong Kong permanent residents' mainland-born children were not issued could well be the tip of the iceberg. Where have all these quotas gone? The Hong Kong administration cannot claim that not to know because, even if it is not involved in the vetting process, the Immigration Department should have a full list of who they are from the time they entered the SAR. Probably, Hong Kong needs the mainland authorities' help to confirm applicants' identity and have therefore relied on their counterparts across the border to do the vetting. And, given the mainland's very strict immigration controls, which do not permit any citizen to leave China without the authorities' approval, Hong Kong can accept only those whom the mainland gives exit permits. But that should be no reason for the Hong Kong Government to accept mainlanders without making any judgment of its own. We talk about corrupt officials in China selling one-way permits to ineligible applicants, but how would they succeed if proper checks existed in Hong Kong to eliminate abuses? True, the local administration may not be able to confirm a mainlander's identity but - once someone is listed as eligible to emigrate to Hong Kong - local officials should at least be able to check whether he or she has close relatives here, qualifying the applicant to settle here for family reunion. If not, the Immigration Department should reject such cases without a second thought. Over the years, has the local administration exercised such a discretion? If not, why not? By not rejecting fraud cases, the Hong Kong Government is indirectly encouraging the mainlanders to believe that corruption does pay. The fundamental problem with the one-way permit system is that it is abused by corrupt mainland officials for whom bribe-taking is big business. The only way to resolve this problem is for the Hong Kong administration to resume control over who is allowed in, even if this amounts only to a negative initial vetting. If no one in this administration has the courage to say no to fraud cases, no matter how much Hong Kong expands one-way permit quotas for the mainland children and spouses of local residents, the long waiting list of emigration applicants will become an endless one.