Women say residency rule denies them basic rights A pair of homeless women are fighting to overturn a policy that denies social assistance to people who have not been Hong Kong residents for at least seven years. In separate judicial review applications this week, Chen Haiju, 45, and Kong Yunming, 58, argued that the rule violated the Basic Law's guarantee to treat all city residents equally, regardless of how long they had lived here. Unequal treatment may be allowed in limited cases, but it must be done to 'pursue a legitimate aim' and should be 'no more than necessary', the applications said. The city's argument that longer-term residents contributed to the tax base and should be entitled to government services was not a legitimate reason for unequal treatment, the women, who live in homeless shelters, said in their request for a judicial review of the policy. 'The government's stance is not convincing,' Ms Chen's application said. 'Normally, residents who are in need of financial assistance are underprivileged persons who are not in a position to contribute to the economy of a society. 'If the government's logic is sound, it may also legitimately reserve emergency hospital services, free education and various public utilities to long-term residents and deprive new arrivals of the same for the mere purpose of reflecting their contribution to the economy.' The applications noted that both women had taken job training, but were unable to work because of serious health and emotional problems. That weakened another argument for withholding social assistance: it was difficult to wean people off the public subsidy. 'There is no scintilla of evidence that [Ms Chen's] failure to take up employment is due to the availability of [social assistance],' her application said. Ms Chen, who is from the mainland, married a Hong Kong man in 1998 and the couple had a son two years later. She moved to the city in 2006 after she was laid off from 'stable job in a bank', the application said. Shortly after her arrival, Ms Chen's husband left and she became homeless, the court documents said. Mrs Kong arrived in the city on December 21, 2005, to live with her 76-year-old husband. He died the next day and Mrs Kong was kicked out of his flat in a public housing estate, her application said. The seven-year residency rule is waived for people who moved to Hong Kong before 2004, when the policy was adopted. Otherwise, social-assistance beneficiaries must have been a resident for seven years and lived continuously in the city for one year. The policy can be waived in 'exceptional circumstances'.