Abandoned 12-year-old boy becomes legal after nine undocumented years in Hong Kong

But grandmother who pleaded on his behalf is arrested for immigration breach

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 May, 2015, 10:51am

A 12-year-old boy who had lived in Hong Kong for nine years without documentation was given temporary papers to stay yesterday, while his grandmother was arrested for helping him breach conditions of stay.

The grandmother, 67-year-old Chow Siu-shuen, brought the boy to Hong Kong from Shenzhen on a two-way exit permit in 2006 when he was just three years old after he was abandoned by his parents on the mainland.

If I die one day and he does not have documentation … he will have no way to live

Since then, Siu Yau-wai has spent most of his childhood living under the radar - unable to go to school, see a doctor or even borrow a book from a public library.

"Every time I see a police officer I know I must hide," said the boy. "I am scared I will get arrested. I am scared grandmother will be arrested."

After reading about the suicide of a 15-year-old girl without legal documentation who jumped to her death from her Repulse Bay flat last month, Chow decided it was in her grandson's best interests to turn herself and the boy in to the authorities.

Along with Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Chan Yuen-han and a lawyer, they met the media yesterday before surrendering to the Immigration Department's general investigation section in Kowloon Bay.

WATCH: The boy says he wants to go to school after receiving a temporary permit

After three hours, Chow was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting others in breach of condition of stay and granted bail, while Siu was given an identification document allowing him to stay for four weeks and subject to renewal. Both are expected to report back to the Immigration Department after 28 days.

"We must now face the reality. We know there may be legal consequences," said a teary-eyed Chow, who is retired and lives on old-age allowance with Siu at a public housing estate in Kwun Tong. "If I die one day and he does not have documentation … he will have no way to live."

However, a Hong Kong pressure group, the Population Policy Concern Group, said repatriating Siu is the best approach because many mainlanders who have been staying in Hong Kong illegally on two-way permits might now make similar requests.

READ MORE: Group says abandoned boy, 12, 'should go back to mainland China' 

Lawyer Lau Kar-wah yesterday said he hoped authorities would consider Siu's case on a humanitarian basis. "He has been here for more than nine years and has no one on the mainland. He is akin to a stateless person," Lau said.

A department spokesman yesterday said it would first try to verify the boy's identity. It plans to work with mainland authorities to try to contact his parents.

After the legal procedures were completed, the department would consider whether or not to deport him, taking into account all factors including humanitarian and compassionate reasons, the spokesman added.

In the meantime, Siu says he is happy to finally be able to walk the streets with his grandmother without having to evade the police - for now at least.

The first thing he said he would do with his new documents after a long day: "I just want to go home and get some sleep."