All asylum seekers should be housed in reception centres and limited to three months of legal aid, a pro-establishment lawmaker proposed on Tuesday. Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who is also an associate law professor at City University, suggested that if these measures failed to eliminate abuses of the system, then Hong Kong should ask Beijing to seek approval from the United Nations to exempt the city from the convention offering asylum seekers protection. Leung’s remarks came days after Beijing legal expert and Peking University law professor Rao Geping rejected pulling the city out of the UN torture convention, an idea once endorsed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and former Hong Kong security minister Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong. READ MORE: Mainland China scholar rejects idea of Hong Kong pulling out of UN torture convention Hong Kong ratified the convention prior to the 1997 handover, but it is blamed by some, including Priscilla Leung and Lee, for creating a loophole that gave rise to an increase in non-refoulement, or protection, claims. Non-refoulement is an international law that protects refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedom could be threatened. Many are from South Asia and end up as cheap labour in Hong Kong’s black economy or turn to crime. The chief executive said in January that Hong Kong would, “if needed”, unilaterally withdraw from the convention. As of January, more than 11,000 cases were still being handled by Hong Kong authorities. Just 27 of the 3,355 cases handled since 2014 were confirmed to be genuine. READ MORE: Hong Kong’s refugee claim system leaves many tough questions Priscilla Leung said the loophole must be plugged as the abuse also meant that public money was being wasted. Referring to those on recognizance, Leung said: “It is unfair because an asylum seeker can apply for a temporary permit and allowances totalling HK$3,400, while our elderly residents only get HK$2,000 a month.” She said that if asylum seekers were put in the Correctional Services Department’s reception centres, they would not need recognizance and the allowances, and it might stem the flow of bogus asylum seekers. “For the legal aid they receive, can we set a time limit such as three months?” Leung asked. She added that more resources should be allocated to the Immigration Department as it took 2.7 years on average for the department to handle each asylum seeker’s claim. The crux of the problem has never been where they can stay, but how we can develop a better screening system Mabel Au, Amnesty International Hong Kong Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, questioned the notion of stripping asylum seekers of their liberty. “They are not criminals,” she said. “The crux of the problem has never been where they can stay, but how we can develop a better screening system.” Au said even if Hong Kong withdrew from the convention against torture, the city would still be bound by other conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which would require the city to extend a helping hand to those suffering from wars and displacements. Salina Lam Wai-lung, chairwoman of the Owners’ Corporation of Chungking Mansions, agreed with Leung. Lam said Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui had accommodated immigrants and travellers from 120 countries, but the flow of suspected bogus asylum seekers had “caused concern among residents that the building is getting more unsafe”. Deep Batra, who is ethnically Indian and grew up in Hong Kong, said he was saddened that many Indians came to Hong Kong to seek asylum but ended up “arrested for offences such as drug trafficking, robbery or common assault”.