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MIGRATION POLICY IN HONG KONG SEPARATE CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS


1. Hong Kong is "separated" from China due to historical reasons. It is not uncommon that members of the Chinese families are separated due to residence and nationality. Over the years, there have been limited direct contact between Hong Kong Government and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Although there are more communications between the two governments after the PRC's adoption of the Open Door Policy in 1980s, they are mainly focused on economic development rather than cooperations on solving societal problems. It is especially true that though the problems arising from split families have seriously affected the welfare of many families in both places, it is not the paramount agenda of the two governments to solve the problem. Children therefore deplorably become victims of the loopholes of the migration policy. Tens of thousands of children are forced to separate from their fathers or mothers. This situation evidently violates article 9 of the Convention stating that "States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will". In light of this, we sincerely urge the Committee to pay attention to this problem and to protect the rights of these separated children.

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2. In Hong Kong, a considerable number (approximately more than 130,000 )(Remarks 1) of children are separated from their parents due to the problematic operation of the migration policies.

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3. From 1950s onwards, many Chinese of the PRC emigrated to Hong Kong illegally or legally due to political or economical reasons. Majority of them constitute the lowest spectrum in Hong Kong society due to low educational level or lacking of job skills to survive in an urban environment. In the past, their chance of getting marry have been very slim due to poverty and low social status, thus most of them remain to be singles even until old age.

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4. After the open door policy was adopted in the PRC in the 80s many single males married Chinese women of their homeland. Yet, their wives and children have to apply for One-way Entry Permits from the PRC Government in order to join their husbands/fathers in Hong Kong.

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5. The Hong Kong Immigration Department is only responsible for approving application of children whose father holds the British Dependent Territory Citizen Passport. The applications of wives and the children whose fathers hold Certificate of Identity(C.I.) are managed by the PRC Government.

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6. At present, the Hong Kong Immigration Department allocates daily quota of 150 One-Way Entry Permits (Remarks 2) for family members of the C.I. holders. 30 permits are reserved for those who married Hong Kong residents over ten years and 45 places are reserved for children of Hong Kong permanent residents (Remarks 3). Thus, mothers and children may not be able to emigrate at the same time. In fact, in most cases children are forced to leave their mother and come to Hong Kong on their own.

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7. According to the 1991 estimation of the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, there are over 100,000 wives and over 300,000 children of Hong Kong Residents in China awaiting clearance for emigration to Hong Kong.

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8. As applications are handled by the PRC government and due to the lack of openness of the assessment process, the applicants have no way of knowing the eligibility of applications, the assessment criteria nor the waiting time.

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9. The approval process of One-way Entry Permits has been criticized as unfair as well as lacking a uniform standard. The quota is distributed differently in different provinces in the PRC and standard of eligibility also varies from place to place. In some cities, only couples married for 15 years are eligible, while in other cities, the requirement is 20 years or even longer. However, in some cities, the requirement may be as short as 3 to 5 years.

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10. The Problem is aggregated by wide-spread corruption. Many applicants reported that they have to pay a bribe to the responsible district officials to speed up the process or they would be disqualified (the range is from HK$60,000 to HK$200,000.).

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11. We considered the arbitrary separation of children from their parents due to the above mention problems in existing policy a violation of article 9 of the Convention. We are concerned with the detrimental effect on the children due to long term separation from one of the care-givers, usually the mother. From our experience in working with this type of split families, we have encountered a large number of cases involving problematic behaviors, such as misconduct in schools, psychological depression, problematic relationship with peers and most importantly, disruptive relationship with parent living with the child. It is not uncommon for the child to blame the parents for bringing them to Hong Kong. The separation has also led to financial problems, as in most of our cases, the fathers have to give up their job to take care of very young children. The loss of income not only has to financial implications, but also creates tension in the family when the breadwinner has to rely on social welfare. Children from these families often become extremely insecure and overwhelmed with shame and guilty feelings.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

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12. We strongly urge the Hong Kong Government and the People's Republic of China Government to have closer cooperation to allow One-way Entry Permits to be approved on a family basis - which would mean both mothers and children can settle in Hong Kong at the same time.

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13. The Hong Kong Government should immediately work out with the People's Republic of China Government to set up a central managing policy and a fair assessment system.

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14. The Hong Kong Government and the People's Republic of China Government should improve the transparency on assessing and processing of the migration applications. At best, the public should be allowed to monitor the system.

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CASES ILLUSTRATION

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15. The following cases are the typical situations of split families in Hong Kong. Their problems are revealed through our service provisions. It would be our pleasure to provide more details for each case upon further request of the Committee.

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Case One :

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16. Mr. Hui Chi Ming, a Hong Kong permanent resident, married his wife Lau Sau Chung in 1981 in Guangdong in PRC and the following year his wife applied for the One-way Entry Permit to emigrate across the border. 15 years passed, she is still not allowed to have family reunion. They gave birth to four children. The four children aged from 5 to 14 were permitted to emigrate to Hong Kong at the end of 1995. However, the permission did not include Mrs. Hui. Mr. Hui had to give up his job so as to take care of his four young children. The single parent family has to depend on public assistance. The four children missed their mother very much. They feel hurt as they have to depend on public assistance. They revealed that one of their teacher once challenged them why their father did not go to work but count on public assistance. They requested their father to find ways to let their mother come to Hong Kong. They said: "We want mother, not public assistance."

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Case two:

17. Mr. Chan Tat Ming, a Hong Kong permanent resident, married his wife Ng Mo Ling in 1988 in Tai Shan of PRC. She is told by the district officials that she is not qualified to apply for the One-way Entry Permit to emigrate to Hong Kong although she has married Mr. Chan for 8 years. However, her little daughter at the age of 3 was permitted to emigrate to Hong Kong in mid-1996. Mrs. Chan came with the child as a Chinese visitor for three months. Her little daughter has strong feeling of insecurity. She has sleeping problem as she knows her mother should leave her after three months. She always looks upset and unhappy.

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Case three:

18. Mr. Chan King Man, a Hong Kong permanent resident, married his wife Tam Chuen Hang in 1981 in Tong Kuan of PRC. She is told by the district officials that she is not qualified to apply for the One-way Entry Permit to emigrate to Hong Kong although she has married Mr. Chan for 15 years. However, her two little sons aged 12 and 7 were permitted to emigrate to Hong Kong in June 1996. Mr. Chan was forced to give up his job so as to take care of the children. The children miss their mother very much. They are very keen to join the petitions to urge the Hong Kong Government and the PRC Government to allow their mothers to come to Hong Kong.

Case four:

19. Mr. Fong Chi Keung, a Hong Kong permanent resident, married his wife Law Fung Chun in 1983 in Tung Kuan of People's Republic of China. She is told by the district officials that she is not qualified to apply for the One-way Entry Permit to emigrate to Hong Kong although she married Mr. Fong for 13 years. However, her two young children at the age of 9 and 10 were permitted to emigrate to Hong Kong at the end of 1995. The son and daughter miss their mother very much. They always get sick without their mother's caring. They have to take care of themselves, like preparing meals when Mr. Fong goes out to work.

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Remarks 1:

The figure is extracted from the "Report on the Hong Kong Residents married in China" by Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department in 1991. However, this is not substantiate in representing the real situations. The figure is only according to the registration of singletons in Hong Kong Immigration Department. However, the Immigration Department has no comprehensive information on the split families. This is mainly because, firstly, the application of the One-way Entry Permit rests on the hands of the PRC Government; and secondly, upon the arrival of the Chinese immigrants, they do not necessarily need to report their family compositions to the Hong Kong Government.

Remarks 2:

Distribution of 150 quotas of the One-way Entry Permit:

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TARGET QUOTA
Different types of spouses 30
Spouses separated over 10 years 30
Different types of children 35
Children of Hong Kong permanent residents 45
Others 10
Total 150

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Remarks 3:

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The Basic Law of The Hong Kong Special Administration Region of The People's Republic of China :

Article 24 : Residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ("Hong Kong Residents") shall include permanent residents and non-permanent residents.

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(1) Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong before or after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;

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(2) Chinese citizens who have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for continuous period of not less than seven years before or after the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;

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(3) Persons of Chinese nationality born outside Hong Kong of those residents listed in categories (1) and (2); As a result, Children born outside Hong Kong who, at the time of their birth, have one parent who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, will have the right of abode in Hong Kong after 1997. To avoid a sudden influx of all these children into Hong Kong in 1997, the Hong Kong Government has begun to bring in these children in the past few years. In May 1995, the Hong Kong and the PRC Government agreed to a further increase in the one-way quota to 150 a day. Of the additional 45 permits, 30 will be allocated to these children and 15 to persons separated from their spouses in Hong Kong for ten years or more.

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