Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon James To in the Legislative Council today (January 6):
Under the new policy implemented since December 2009, mainland persons who were under the age of 14 at the time their blood fathers or mothers obtaining the status of Macao residents before November 1, 2001 ("overage children") can apply for entry into Macao for settlement. The Central Government has also decided that the policy measure will largely apply to Hong Kong. Regarding the issuance of One-way Permits ("OWPs") to mainland persons for entry into Hong Kong for settlement, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has assessed the current number of overage children who meet the requirement of the above new measure; if it has, of the number of such persons, as well as how long they will need to wait on average to obtain OWPs;
(b) given that the mainland authorities have divided the daily OWP quota of 150 places into certain sub-quotas designated for various categories of applicants, among which 60 of such places are allocated to spouses separated for less than 10 years and their accompanying children, unsupported children who need to join their relatives in Hong Kong, persons coming to Hong Kong to take care of their unsupported aged parents (i.e. those with no other children in Hong Kong) and unsupported elderly people coming to join relatives in Hong Kong, whether the Government knows how the mainland authorities allocate those 60 places, and in the past five years, of the number of applicants under each category (including spouses separated for 10 years or more and those separated for less than 10 years and their accompanying children) who had come to Hong Kong for settlement on OWPs as well as the number of unused places under each sub-quota; and
(c) whether it will reconsider requesting the mainland authorities to adjust the method of allocating the OWP places in order to optimising the utilisation of such places, so as to shorten the period of separation between Hong Kong residents and their mainland family members?
(a) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the relevant Mainland authorities are actively discussing the implementation arrangements pertinent to "overage children" of Hong Kong residents applying for One-way Permit (OWP). At this stage, neither the HKSAR Government nor the Mainland authorities have accurate information on the number of eligible "overage children" (i.e. Mainland persons who were under the age of 14 at the time when their blood fathers or mothers obtained Hong Kong resident status before November 1, 2001). According to the HKSAR Government's estimate, there will be tens of thousands of such children. Also, we are not in a position to estimate the waiting time of the relevant persons at this stage.
(b) At present, among the daily OWP quota of 150 places, 60 are allocated to persons holding Certificates of Entitlement; 30 to spouses separated for 10 years or above and their accompanying children; and 60 to "other categories" of applicants, which include spouses separated for less than 10 years and their accompanying children, unsupported children who need to join their relatives in Hong Kong, persons coming to Hong Kong to take care of their unsupported aged parents, and unsupported elderly people coming to join their relatives in Hong Kong.
Statistics on the different categories of persons who had come to Hong Kong on the strength of OWP from 2004 to November 2009 are at Annex.
We do not have information on the allocation of sub-quotas under "other categories". The Mainland authorities applied a points system to determine the eligibility of applicants and the order of settling in Hong Kong according to objective criteria (e.g. applicants' age).
(c) OWP Scheme aims to enable Mainland residents to come to Hong Kong for family reunion in an orderly manner. The Mainland authorities have from time to time adjusted and enhanced the arrangements as necessary. For example, since 2003, the restriction that applicants under the "separated spouses" category could only bring one accompanying child to Hong Kong was discarded; in 2005, the waiting time of applicants under the "separated spouses" category in Guangdong was shortened to five years, in line with that of the rest of the Mainland; and, since January 2009, their waiting time was further shortened to four years.
The assessment of applications for and the issue of OWP fall outside the remit of the HKSAR Government. However, the HKSAR Government from time to time exchanges views with the Mainland authorities and reflects to the latter the views of various sectors in Hong Kong. We will continue to discuss with the Mainland authorities, including optimising the utilisation of the unused OWP quotas to facilitate the early entry of eligible persons.
Ends/Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:45