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Accepted Paper:

Interpretation of Law, Interpretation of Chinese "Illegals" in Hong Kong  
Wai-chi Chee (Hong Kong Baptist University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the lives of a group of mainland Chinese who lost their right of abode as a result of the interpretation of the Basic Law regarding the eligibility of mainland-born children of Hong Kong residents.

Paper long abstract:

In anticipation of Hong Kong's (HK) handover to China in 1997, the Basic Law was passed in 1990. Article 24 stipulated that mainland-born children of HK permanent residents would be granted the right of abode. This triggered waves of undocumented immigration from mainland China. Parents brought in their children, sometimes illegally, to wait to make claims after the handover. By 1999, the number surged to tens of thousands. This sparked fears of an influx of migrants. After many contentions and litigations, the HK government, claiming to settle the controversies once and for all, requested an interpretation of the Articles in question by the Beijing government. The interpretation ruled that mainland-born children would be eligible for the right of abode only if at least one parent had already acquired permanent residence status at the time of their birth. Eligible children must wait in China, not HK, for their turn to immigrate. However, this did not stop the waves of illegal immigration. The rumor of special amnesty for overstayers sparked off another surge of immigrants. In 2002, the HK government enforced repatriation and sent back to China about 8,000 mainlanders. Facing this hard policy, some mainlanders returned voluntarily, but some went underground. This paper explores the experiences of a group of mainland children who went into hiding since then to shed light on their decade-long "illegal" lives in HK, and considers how their lives are fundamentally shaped by the shifting meanings of "legal immigrants" in legislation.

Panel P066
The impact of law on transnational families' staying, moving and settling
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -