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LCQ1: Established mechanism to handle One-way Permits obtained through fraudulent means

     Following is a question by the Hon Alvin Yeung and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):


     It has been reported that some senior Mainland officials have been selling Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macao (commonly known as "One-way Permits" (OWPs)) to Mainlanders, and an OWP may fetch as much as HK$2 million.  Also, some Mainland celebrities are suspected to have acquired the right of abode in Hong Kong by illegal means.  In reply to a question from a Member of this Council on the 18th of last month, the Secretary for Security said that ¡§the Immigration Department shall invalidate the residence status of persons whose applications are found to be fraudulent and shall remove them from Hong Kong...".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Security Bureau (SB) has approached the Mainland authorities to gain an understanding of the situation of Mainland officials selling OWPs and the impact of such cases on the vetting and approval of applications for OWPs; if SB has, of the details; according to the estimation of the authorities, of the number of Mainlanders, since Hong Kong's return to China, who have come to Hong Kong for settlement after purchasing OWPs from Mainland officials, and among such Mainlanders, the number of those who have now acquired the right of abode in Hong Kong; how SB will handle such cases and whether SB will revoke the right of abode of the persons concerned;

(2) whether the authorities have estimated the number of Mainlanders, since Hong Kong's return to China, who have gained approval for coming to Hong Kong for settlement by making fraudulent applications; among such persons, of the number of those currently under investigation by the authorities, and the number of those who have been removed from Hong Kong after their right of abode in Hong Kong were revoked because they had been proved to have made fraudulent applications; and

(3) whether it will discuss with the Mainland authorities the measures to be adopted to eradicate the sale of OWPs?


     The consolidated reply to the Hon Yeung's questions is as follows.

     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.  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 office of the public security authority of the Mainland at the places of their household registration.

     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 policy objective, 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 to objectively assess the eligibility and priority of applicants.  Authorities of some provinces and cities publish the names of 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, while a small number reunited with their children or were unsupported children coming to Hong Kong to join their relatives.

     At present, the Immigration Department (ImmD) has an established mechanism to handle OWPs obtained through fraudulent means.  If any OWP-entrant is suspected of furnishing false information or making false statement, the ImmD will conduct in-depth investigation.  Once a case is substantiated, regardless of whether or not the person concerned holds a permanent identity card, the ImmD can declare his Hong Kong identity card invalid and order it to be surrendered.  In addition, regardless of his years of residence in Hong Kong, the ImmD can remove him from Hong Kong.

     Further, to curb such illegal conduct, the ImmD will instigate prosecution after consulting the Department of Justice and carefully examining factors such as circumstances of the individual case and evidence.  According to section 42 of the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115), any person who uses or has in his possession any forged, false or unlawfully obtained or altered travel document, or makes any statement or representation which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true to an ImmD personnel commits an offence.  Offenders are liable to prosecution, and upon conviction face a maximum fine of $150,000 and to imprisonment for 14 years.

     I must stress that the HKSAR Government attaches great importance to the genuineness of immigration applications, and is concerned with cases involving OWPs obtained through unlawful means.  Such conduct poses serious impediment to the long established exit-entry control policy for Mainland residents.  Through regular meetings and correspondences, the HKSAR Government exchanges views with the Mainland authorities on the approval of OWPs and enforcement matters, and to convey aspirations of various sectors in Hong Kong.  The ImmD facilitates at case level in the processing of applications by Mainland authorities, including issuing Certificates of Entitlement to the Right of Abode to children of Hong Kong permanent residents, and when necessary, renders assistance in individual cases in verifying the supporting documents submitted by the applicants and their claimed relationship with relatives in Hong Kong (e.g. husband and wife, parent and child relationship).  Where a case is found to be suspicious or when factual discrepancies are identified, the ImmD will inform the relevant exit and entry administration office of the public security authority, and will request the applicant to provide further documentary proof.  Similarly, the ImmD will cooperate if it receives a request from the Mainland authorities to assist in investigating cases involving OWPs obtained through unlawful means.

     Past case information provided to the ImmD does not involve Mainland officials selling OWPs.  From 2013 to end May 2016, 66 OWP holders had their Hong Kong identity cards declared invalid because their OWPs were obtained through furnishing false information or fraudulent means; 13 persons among them were confirmed by ImmD to have provided false information, such as family status, based on case information provided by Mainland authorities and had their Hong Kong identity cards declared invalid.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:16


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