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LCQ4: One-way Permit Scheme

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon Sin Chung-kai in the Legislative Council today (January 22):


     Article 22(4) of the Basic Law provides that: "for 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".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the occasions, since the reunification, on which the Central People's Government consulted the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government on the number of persons entering the SAR for the purpose of settlement, as well as the views given by the SAR Government on each occasion; whether the SAR Government has taken the initiative to give its views to the Central People's Government in this regard; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether there were past cases in which the SAR Government specifically participated in vetting and approving the applications of individual mainlanders for settlement in Hong Kong, and whether the SAR Government had examined the relevant application documents; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that the incumbent Chief Executive promised in his election manifesto in 2012 that "reserves unto the government the authority to screen and approve newcomers to our shores", but the Chief Secretary for Administration openly indicated on October 24, 2013 that there was no question of taking back the power of vetting and approving applications for One-way Permit (i.e. Permit for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao), how the authorities honour that promise?



     First and foremost, I must point out that the One-way Permit (OWP) Scheme is implemented with the aim of allowing Mainland residents to come to Hong Kong for family reunion in an orderly manner, instead of importing talents from outside Hong Kong.  Article 22 of the Basic Law stipulates that, for entry into the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), people from other parts of China must apply for approval. 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.  As such, Mainland residents who wish to settle in Hong Kong for family reunion must apply for OWPs from the Exit and Entry Administration Offices of the Public Security Bureau of the Mainland at the places of their household registration.

     My consolidated reply to the Member's questions is as follows.

     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 HKSAR Government facilitates at case level, including issuing Certificates of Entitlement to children of Hong Kong permanent residents, and when necessary, rendering assistance in verifying the supporting documents submitted by applicants and their claimed relationship with relatives in Hong Kong (e.g. husband and wife or parent-child relationship).  Furthermore, persons whose application is found to be fraudulent by the HKSAR Government shall have their residence status invalidated and shall be removed, regardless of their years of residence in Hong Kong.

     The daily quota of OWPs is 150 at present. There are views that the quota for OWPs is in excess, while some advocate family reunion, demanding early settlement of Mainland family members of Hong Kong residents in Hong Kong.  Setting a quota will allow family members of Hong Kong residents residing in the Mainland to settle in Hong Kong in an orderly manner. In addition, it ensures that complementary measures including healthcare, housing, welfare, education, etc., can aptly meet their needs for settlement in Hong Kong.

     The HKSAR Government always attaches great importance to the views of various sectors of the society concerning Mainland residents settling in Hong Kong, and exchanges views with the Mainland authorities on the approval of OWPs.  Through meetings and exchanges, relevant bureaux and departments maintain close liaison with the Mainland authorities, such as the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, to convey aspirations of various sectors in Hong Kong and exchange views.  Having considered suggestions from the HKSAR Government and various sectors of the society, the Mainland authorities have adjusted and refined the OWP Scheme from time to time.  For example:

* Since May 1997, the Mainland authorities implemented a point-based system, setting out open and transparent approval criteria.  The Mainland authorities assess the eligibility and priority of applicants with reference to these criteria, update annually the "eligibility points" required for approval of the OWP application and announce the updates through media and the Internet;

* Since 2001, the unused places under the sub-quota for long-separated spouses have been allocated to spouses separated for a shorter period and their accompanying children.  With effect from October of the same year, Mainland children adopted by Hong Kong residents can apply for OWP; and the age limit for OWP applications of unsupported children was relaxed from 14 to 18;

* Since 2003, the age limit for OWP applications of accompanying children of separated spouses was relaxed from 14 to 18.  The restriction that only one accompanying child was allowed was also removed; and

* Before 2005, separated spouses in Guangdong had to meet a higher level of "eligibility points".  Generally, their waiting time was six and a half years or more vis-à-vis around five years for those in other provinces and cities. In 2005, the "eligibility points" for OWP applications of separated spouses in Guangdong were relaxed.  Their waiting time was shortened to five years, in line with that of other provinces and cities. In 2009, the "eligibility points" for OWP applications of separated spouses were further relaxed, thereby shortening their waiting time to four years.

     As regards the last part of the question, one of the objectives put forward by the Chief Executive in his manifesto under the chapter on "My Pledge on Population and Human Resources" is to plan for the medium and long term supply and demand of human resources, including professionals and technicians, and formulate settlement and admission of talent policies, while reserving unto the Government the authority to screen and approve newcomers to our shores.  Specific proposals include improving the capital investment immigration policies, undertaking promotional activities, which highlight Hong Kong's appeal, overseas and in the Mainland to attract talents, and supporting new arrivals, etc.  The HKSAR Government is implementing the respective proposals.

     As for the importation of talents, one of the objectives of the immigration policy of the HKSAR Government is to attract talents and professionals from around the world to come to Hong Kong with a view to enhancing the international competitiveness of Hong Kong and its position as Asia's world city.  At present, the HKSAR Government has put in place a number of relevant immigration policies, including General Employment Policy, Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, Quality Migrant Admission Scheme and Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates.  The conditions and requirements of such policies are set by the HKSAR Government.  Since the reunification, 460 000 talents and professionals from around the world have come to work in Hong Kong.

     We will keep in view the suggestions from various sectors of the society and the interests of the local community.  We will continue to exchange views with the Mainland authorities on the overall usage of OWP quota, and reflect to them the aspirations of the society, as well as to consider and examine the need to adjust the immigration policies on talent admission in the light of social developments.

Ends/Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:59


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