IIs victimise HK migrants

CANADIAN Prime Minister Kim Campbell yesterday warned that the influx to North America of illegal immigrants from China posed serious problems for legitimate migrants from Hong Kong.

But she promised the Government in Ottawa would continue to welcome investment migrants from Hong Kong and others who arrived in Canada through the proper channels.

She said more enforcement was needed in China to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from the mainland, which she said had brought criminal elements into Chinese communities in Canada.

''What we've tried to do is to try at the departure level to prevent people from getting on planes and boats without the proper documentation before they leave,'' she said.

''When criminal elements come from other countries, it is the immigrant communities here that are victimised.

''Certainly in Vancouver many of the members of the Chinese merchant community have been very vocal in wanting the Government to tighten up these things because they find themselves victimised by people who perhaps ought not to be admitted,'' she said.

''It's a multi-faceted problem that requires the legal tools, the logistical tools and mechanisms to try to keep people from arriving here - or expeditiously sending them back to where they came from.'' Ms Campbell became Prime Minister in June after winning her party's leadership contest. The country's first female head of government, she leads in several public opinion surveys taken ahead of a general election expected to be called within the next few days.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Ms Campbell said a government under her leadership would pay special attention to the Asia-Pacific region, as she hailed from the western-most province of British Columbia.

She indicated the door would remain open for qualified Hong Kong people wanting to enter Canada. Each year Canada issues more than 20,000 visas to Hong Kong people.

Despite reports in Canada of widespread abuse among business immigrants from Hong Kong, Ms Campbell strongly defended the programme, saying it had attracted capital and investment to Canada. ''An enormous amount of Asian money has come into British Columbia as investment.'' She acknowledged that the first wave of Hong Kong immigrants concentrated their investments in the real estate sector but this had broadened into other areas that had created jobs.

''One of the arguments that has been made to explain why British Columbia was less badly hit by the recent recession is the strength that has been provided by that Asian investment,'' Ms Campbell said.

''I think it's been a very positive thing. As long as the policy is administered in a way that's honest and fair, I think that there is a role to play. Canada is not overpopulated, but there is also a shortage of investment capital.'' Ms Campbell said she was eager to visit Hong Kong and China after the election campaign.

''The relationship between Canada and Hong Kong is very strong - particularly this part of Canada,'' she said. ''I have an enormous interest in the future of the region and very much hope to build our relationship up.'' Ms Campbell, who met the Governor, Chris Patten, during his visit to Canada last year, said she was taken aback at his aggressive approach towards expanding democratic institutions in the territory.

''We've been very strong supporters of getting a political settlement between Great Britain and China to establish democracy in Hong Kong.'' She added it would be premature at this point to contemplate developing a contingency plan for Hong Kong people should China crack down on civil liberties after 1997.