HONG KONG, Reuters
Hong Kong’s highest court on Friday granted residency to a three-year-old boy with mainland Chinese parents, dealing a surprise blow to government efforts to limit new immigrants.
The ruling was the latest in a series of controversial cases involving mainland Chinese who have claimed the right to live in Hong Kong following its return to communist China in 1997.
The government said it was disappointed but respected the court’s ruling.
Chong Fung-yuen was born while his parents were visiting Hong Kong in September 1997 and his family has fought hard to keep him in the territory.
Hong Kong was granted a high degree of autonomy from the PRC when Britain returned the former colony. It remains a wealthy capitalist outpost and retains Britain’s common law tradition.
The Court of Final Appeal (CFA) said the post-handover constitution’s “clear meaning is that Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong before or after July 1997 have the status of permanent residents.”
The government had argued that some 1,991 mainland Chinese children born in Hong Kong in the 43 months since the handover could qualify for right of abode if Chong was granted residency, but the court said that did not constitute “any significant risk to Hong Kong”.
The ruling could have long-term ramifications; it may encourage mainland women to sneak into Hong Kong to give birth to children, further inflating the population in tiny Hong Kong.
“Of course, we are happy. I don’t know what else to say,” the boy’s delighted grandmother told Cable TV.
The case was one of several emotionally-charged immigration proceedings that have dogged Hong Kong since it returned to Chinese rule.
“We are disappointed by the CFA judgement but we respect the CFA judgement,” said acting Secretary for Security Timothy Tong.
He added the department would step up measures to prevent mainland women from trying to give birth in the territory.
The court also ruled on Friday on another case, this time upholding the government’s decision to turn down the residency appeal of Tam Nga-yin, 14, who was adopted by a Hong Kong couple shortly after she was born on the mainland.
Provisions in the constitution were “simply incapable of sustaining an interpretation that adopted children are included,” the court said.
The top court has yet to deliver its verdict on the territory’s largest and most controversial immigration case, which involves over 5,000 mainland Chinese and has raised questions about the territory’s judicial independence from Beijing.