Lawyer confident of abode test case

Cindy Sui

Mainlanders preparing to fight a test case to remain in Hong Kong have a good case, their lawyer said yesterday.

Pam Baker said: 'They are entitled to be here. It's not a woolly-minded human rights issue. It's a legal right and a constitutional right.' Ms Baker is applying to have the 12 mainlanders detained by immigration officials released on bail.

They could be released as early as tomorrow or Monday, and no later than Lunar New Year, she said.

The 12 were arrested for overstaying their two-way permits and are now appealing to the Government to allow them to stay here permanently. They argue that the landmark Court of Final Appeal ruling on mainland children grants them right of abode.

The Government says they should return home and wait in a queue with tens of thousands of others for a certificate of entitlement - permission to immigrate.

Ms Baker said the mainlanders should not be sent back, because the Government had not set up a system to obtain the certificate.


'The Department of Immigration has not instituted a scheme for people to apply for the certificate of entitlement. If there isn't a scheme, how can they tell people to comply?' said Ms Baker, who previously fought for the residency rights of Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong.

She said all the mainlanders she was representing had waited many years to be reunited with their families in Hong Kong.

'They're all people whose parents and siblings were able to come here, but they weren't. They've been applying more or less all their lives, certainly for 20 years,' Ms Baker said.

Several of the 12 are part of a group of about 300 who have been holding a sit-in outside the Central Government Offices demanding the right to stay.


Police asked the protesters to apply for a protest permit yesterday.

Protest leaders applied and were granted a permit that lasts until Monday.


The 12 will be fighting a test case for other mainland visitors who also want to stay. It could go as far as the Court of Final Appeal, Ms Baker said.

The Legal Aid Department revealed yesterday that 663 mainlanders had sought legal aid from the Government since the ruling. The 12 are the only ones approved.