LCQ5: One-way Permit scheme
Article 22 of the Basic Law provides that "[f]or entry into the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, people from other parts of China must apply for approval. Among them, the number of persons who enter the Region for the purpose of settlement shall be determined by the competent authorities of the Central People's Government after consulting the government of the Region." Mainland residents who wish to settle in Hong Kong must apply for Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao (commonly known as One-way Permits ("OWPs")) from the Exit and Entry Administration Offices of the Public Security Bureau of the Mainland at the places of their household registration. At present, the daily quota for OWPs is 150, and the application, vetting, approval and issuance of OWPs fall within the remit of the Mainland authorities. Since July 1, 1997, a total of 830 000 Mainland residents have come to settle in Hong Kong on OWPs. It is estimated that 1.93 million new immigrants will settle in Hong Kong in the next five decades, with most of them coming from the Mainland. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the present role of the Immigration Department in the vetting and approval process for OWPs, and whether it has requested the Mainland authorities, when vetting and approving OWP applications, to consider the applicants' qualifications such as their ages, academic qualifications and language proficiency;
(2) whether it has assessed, given the situation that the Government has no control over the quota and eligibility for OWPs, how it can formulate housing, healthcare, education and social welfare policies that dovetail with the demographic characteristics of Hong Kong; and
(3) whether it will propose to the Central Authorities that Article 22 of the Basic Law be amended to stipulate that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is responsible for vetting and approving Mainland residents' applications for settlement in Hong Kong?
In consultation with relevant policy bureaux and departments, the reply to the Hon Cheng's question is as follows:
(1) It is stipulated in Article 22 of the Basic Law that "For entry into the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), people from other parts of China must apply for approval. Among them, the number of persons who enter the Region for the purpose of settlement shall be determined by the competent authorities of the Central People's Government after consulting the government of the Region." The provisions of this Article, in accordance with the interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1999, mean that Mainland residents who wish to enter Hong Kong for whatever reason, must apply to the relevant authorities of their residential districts for approval in accordance with the relevant national laws and administrative regulations, and must hold valid documents issued by the relevant authorities. Accordingly, Mainland residents who wish to settle in Hong Kong for family reunion must apply for Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao, commonly known as One-way Permits (OWPs), from the exit and entry administration offices of the public security authority at the places of their household registration in the Mainland.
OWPs are documents issued by relevant authorities in the Mainland. The application, approval and issuance of OWPs fall within the remit of the Mainland authorities. The OWP scheme allows Mainland residents to come to Hong Kong for family reunion in an orderly manner through approval by the Mainland authorities in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Mainland. Under this framework, the Mainland authorities have since May 1997 implemented a point-based system with the eligibility points announced through the internet, setting out open and transparent criteria for the OWP scheme to objectively assess the eligibility and priority of applicants. The public security authorities of some provinces and cities publish the names of OWP applicants under certain categories whose approval procedures are completed, and allow applicants to check the status of their applications online. Mainland residents who meet the eligibility criteria laid down by the Mainland authorities may apply to come to settle in Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong's return to China, about half of those who settled in Hong Kong under the OWP scheme reunited with their spouses and half reunited with their parents.
The HKSAR Government facilitates at case level in the processing of applications, including issuing the Certificates of Entitlement and rendering assistance to the Mainland authorities in authenticating the particulars of Hong Kong residents and the relationship (e.g. husband and wife, parent and child, etc.) claimed by the applicants. Upon detection of suspicious cases, the Immigration Department (ImmD) will follow up and investigate to prevent offenders from coming to Hong Kong by obtaining OWPs through fraudulent means.
As regards the question about whether ImmD requires the Mainland authorities to assist in the vetting of applicants' ages, academic qualifications and language background, I have to point out that the OWP scheme is not an immigration policy for admission of talents. Rather, as mentioned above, it is to allow Mainland residents to come to Hong Kong for family reunion in an orderly manner. Mainland residents who meet the eligibility criteria laid down by the Mainland authorities may apply to come to settle in Hong Kong.
The various existing talent admission schemes serve different policy objectives. For instance, the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) aims at attracting talents with special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong to work here in meeting the needs of the Hong Kong economy. As for the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), it seeks to attract highly skilled or talented persons to settle in Hong Kong in order to enhance our human capital and maintain our competitiveness. Therefore, these talent admission schemes and the OWP scheme have different considerations about the required qualifications of their respective applicants. The prerequisites which ASMTP applicants are required to fulfill include having secured a job relevant to his/her academic qualifications or work experience that cannot be readily taken up by the local workforce, receiving a remuneration package which commensurate with the prevailing market rate, etc. The prerequisites which QMAS applicants are required to fulfill include age, financial requirement, language proficiency, basic educational qualifications, etc. They can then accumulate points under "points test" and compete for quota allocation.
Underpinned by different legal frameworks, the OWP scheme and various talent admission schemes have different target applicants and objectives. It is not meaningful to compare them.
(2) For a long time, the Census and Statistics Department has been updating population projections statistics every two to three years taking into account the latest developments of the population, so as to provide a common basis for reference by the Government for formulating policies in housing, healthcare, education, social welfare, etc., as well as in planning public services and facilities.
In addition, a data collection mechanism has been set up by ImmD to collect data on the demographic and social characteristics of OWP holders when they enter Hong Kong via the Lo Wu control point. Moreover, the Home Affairs Department conducts surveys on new arrivals from the Mainland who are aged 11 or above and have arrived in Hong Kong for less than one year when they apply for their Hong Kong Identity Cards at ImmD's Registration of Persons-Kowloon Office in order to identify their profile and service needs. After analysing and consolidating the data collected from the two surveys on age, marital status, educational attainment, economic activity, etc., the survey results are distributed to relevant government departments and non-governmental organisations in the form of quarterly reports on the Internet, so as to provide them with more useful information in planning their services for new arrivals. The HKSAR Government provides support services for new arrivals (e.g. Cantonese courses for new-arrivals offered by the Employees Retraining Board, comprehensive and free employment services provided by the Labour Department) to facilitate their adaptation to and early integration into the community.
(3) It is stipulated under the Basic Law that the application, approval and issue of OWPs fall within the remit of the Mainland authorities. The Mainland authorities have set out open and transparent eligibility criteria. The HKSAR Government has all along been exchanging views with the Mainland authorities on the views of various sectors of the community concerning Mainland residents settling in Hong Kong for family reunion. In fact, having considered the views raised by the HKSAR Government and various sectors of the community, the Mainland authorities have adjusted and refined the OWP scheme. For instance, since 2001, unused places under the quota for long-separated spouses have been allocated to spouses separated for a shorter period and their accompanying children. Moreover, in recent years, eligible Mainland "overage children" of Hong Kong residents are allowed to apply for OWPs in an orderly manner for reunion with their parents in Hong Kong.
The HKSAR Government does not see any justification for raising a proposal to amend Article 22 of the Basic Law. Nor does the HKSAR Government consider that there is any need or justification to request the Mainland authorities to consider changing the existing OWP scheme or approval arrangements.
The HKSAR Government will take account of the views of various sectors and the overall interest of the community, and continue to exchange views on matters relating to the overall OWP scheme with the Mainland authorities. The HKSAR Government will also facilitate at case level in the processing of applications, including issuing Certificates of Entitlement to children of Hong Kong permanent residents born in the Mainland, and rendering assistance in authenticating the particulars of Hong Kong residents in individual cases.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:19
Issued at HKT 16:19