Time to renegotiate policy that allows 150 mainland Chinese to settle in Hong Kong every day

With the city’s rapidly ageing population, surely our government has an imperative to allow in younger, richer and better educated mainland migrants than those under the reunion scheme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 1:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 1:38am

Continuing the quota of letting up to 150 mainlanders into post-1997 Hong Kong on one-way permits every day without screening on this side of the border was a decision made on principle, not practicality.

That’s according to Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, writing in the latest issue of Bauhinia magazine.

It appears that Hong Kong representatives negotiating with the mainland over post-handover immigration policy had sensibly wanted control of who could be admitted as residents into the city. But Lu Ping, the late head of the HKMAO, absolutely refused to entertain the idea, according to Zhang. This was despite the consensus among the Hong Kong delegates in Beijing in 1987.

This consensus still holds today among Hongkongers across the political spectrum. It’s just that it’s almost never raised by our government with mainland authorities, for obvious reasons.

Lu Ping held firm on immigration during Hong Kong handover negotiation, Zhang Xiaoming says

Zhang praised Lu for his firmness on this point as a matter of principle. If I understand correctly, it’s that the colonial government had agreed to this arrangement, so the same principle should be adhered to by the post-handover administration.

If so, we are living with the practical consequences of Lu’s principle, which he probably didn’t anticipate.

According to immigration data, 57,387 mainland people arrived in Hong Kong last year on ­one-way permits, up from 38,338 in 2015. There are many reasons behind the antipathy or even antagonism between Hongkongers and mainlanders in recent years. But it seems fair to assume the one-way permit scheme, which primarily caters to family reunions for children, spouses and parents, has been a contributing factor. Incidentally, we have one of the world’s highest divorce rates; failed cross-border marriages are a major factor.

‘Different crowd’ of mainland immigrants fill Hong Kong’s talent gap

The immigration scheme has contributed up to 10 per cent of the local population in the past 20 years. Circumstances have vastly changed since 1987. The fact that living standards on the mainland have grown by leaps and bounds mean moving in the other direction for family reunion is no longer infeasible.

With the city’s rapidly ageing population, surely our government has an imperative to allow in younger, richer and better educated mainland migrants than those under the reunion scheme.

The scheme is ready for an overhaul. Our government is always fretting about the need for a population policy. Now if only it had the courage to take that up with mainland authorities.