District councillor hits back at Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s defence of the one-way permit scheme
Roy Tam says families can go to mainland China to reunite, and that Hongkongers’ ‘rights to habitation and reproduction’ should not be restricted
A district councillor has hit back at the Hong Kong leader’s defence of a scheme that has admitted more than a million mainland Chinese into the city over the past 21 years.
During a Facebook live session on Friday evening, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor defended the one-way permit scheme, saying it was a basic human right that families should be able to reunite and live together. She blamed “brainwashing” by social activists for creating opposition to the scheme and the immigrants it brought into the city.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, a member of the Neo Democrats Party who founded the Population Policy Concern Group, on Monday hit back at Lam’s remarks, saying the right to reunite should not “override local people’s rights of habitation and reproduction”, considering the limited size and population capacity of Hong Kong.
“Coming to Hong Kong is not the only way to reunite,” Tam said. “The Hong Kong partners can go north to the mainland.”
He said a residence permit for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents rolled out by the central government last week could be a way to reunite on the mainland. Applications open on September 1 for the residence permit, which is a smart ID card that will grant holders access to 18 public services and facilities equal to their mainland counterparts for a five-year period.
Hongkongers who have been living, working or studying across the border for more than six months will be eligible to apply.
Tam said the Hong Kong government should negotiate three changes to the one-way permit with mainland Chinese authorities:
- Cut the daily quota of 150 people by at least half
- Screen holders to make sure they will not apply for public housing before entering Hong Kong
- Set up a return mechanism allowing them to regain mainland Chinese residency if they struggle to settle within their first year
“If we cannot effectively reduce the influx of immigrants, all efforts to increase land supply in Hong Kong will be in vain,” Tam said.
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Hong Kong is facing a shortfall of at least 1,200 hectares of land to support its development for the next three decades according to the government. The local community has been engaged in a five-month public consultation since April on 18 potential options of land supply under the lead of a government-appointed Land Supply Task Force.
Lam had hosted the Facebook discussion to engage the public about ideas for her policy address in October. The one-way permit scheme was the most popular concern and was mentioned 572 times in questions raised by online viewers within 48 minutes.
Specifically designed to allow mainlanders to settle in Hong Kong to reunite with families, the scheme has admitted more than a million people since 1997, accounting for up to 13 per cent of Hong Kong’s total population.
The permit is issued by mainland authorities and Hong Kong immigration has no right to scrutinise permit holders before admitting them to the city.
“Opposition to the scheme comes from people’s day-to-day experience of housing and public space shortages, not the so-called brainwashing by us,” Tam said.
Sze Lai-shan, a veteran social worker with the Society for Community Organisation, said the residence permit would offer families separated by the border another alternative to reunite. “But you cannot force people to go north because marrying someone born on the mainland doesn’t mean the person likes the government or the way of life there,” Sze said.
A spokesman for the Security Bureau said the daily quota of one-way permits and mainland authorities' power of issuing them was established according to Article 22 of the Basic Law and an interpretation of the article by China's top legislative body in 1999.
“The government does not see any justification for raising a proposal to amend Article 22 ... Nor does the government consider that there is any need or justification to request the mainland authorities to consider changing the existing one-way permit scheme or approval arrangements,” the spokesman said.