The HKSAR Government announced in a high profile manner on 28th April 1999 its "preliminary estimate" that 1.67 million of so-called "new immigrants" are eligible to settle in Hong Kong within a period of 10 to 13 years following the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal ("CFA") in the case of Ng Ka Ling. This figure drastically increases more than 5 fold the 1996 figure arrived at by the same Census and Statistics Department. However, in spite of repeated requests by members of the Legislative Council, human rights groups, and independent statisticians, the Government has declined to disclose any details on the methodology adopted and the raw data.
The status of permanent resident is conferred by the Basic Law. Yet, nearly two years after the Basic Law came into force, nothing has been done to facilitate the entry and integration of people from the Mainland who have the right to come to Hong Kong and wish to do so. Instead, the Government has persisted in encouraging the public to see Mainland people who have the status as unwelcome "immigrants" who will create an impossible burden for Hong Kong. The Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa, referred to this as a crisis requiring immediate decisive action.
In an attempt to reinforce the sense of crisis, an estimated HK$108.3 billions is said to be required to build five hospitals, 100 schools, and 180,000 public housing units on the basis that an initial 690,000 "immigrants" will arrive in Hong Kong within the next three years. It is also said that if all the economically active among them (said to be 480,000) became unemployed, they would push up the rate of unemployment to 17.8%.
The scenario that all 690,000 will arrive in Hong Kong within the next three years, will all of them be unemployed, will all of them require public housing, and will all of them be dependent on public assistance is clearly unrealistic.
Meanwhile, the Government said that information on how many of those eligible intended to come will not be disclosed.
All of this suggests that the Government is manipulating figures in order to instill in the public the perception that there is a huge and insoluble problem and that the only possible solution is to have the CFA judgment effectively overturned.
A responsible government does not set out to create prejudice and panic so as to generate a climate in which the community may be seen to demand that constitutional rights be taken away from permanent residents. The fact is the rights of permanent residents who happen to be residing in the Mainland are indistinguishable from the rights of permanent residents living in Hong Kong.
We call on the HKSAR Government: --
(1) To stop indulging in propaganda, and instead, to promote rational discussion on viable solutions;
(2) To stop exciting discrimination against permanent residents living in the Mainland;
(3) To clarify the statistics and disclose the calculations and the assumptions behind the figures;
(4) Not to resort to means which undermine the authority, credibility and jurisdiction of the CFA; and
(5) Not to reverse the judgment of the CFA by inviting the NPC Standing Committee to interpret or amend the Basic Law.
Dated 3rd May 1999.
HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR
SOCIETY FOR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS