28th October 2013
Martin Lee: Basic Law Doesn’t Specify OWP Approval Procedure
Hong Kong SAR Government conducted a population policy consultation for four months, Lai Tung-kwok, Secretary for Security, said recently that there are clear regulations about One-Way Permits (OWP) System specified in the constitution (Basic Law), the claim for Hong Kong to take back the approval right of OWP is not valid.
Martin Lee, senior barrister and a member of the Basic Law drafting committee, said that the relevant articles in the Basic Law only stated that Chinese have to apply for OWP if they wish to emigrate to Hong Kong, but does not specify that Hong Kong cannot be “involved” in the approval procedure. He recommends having Hong Kong to review the applications the Ministry of Public Security receive, in order to prevent people from gaining the permit with lies or even vote rigging.
The population policy consultation triggered the debate over the OWP approval right. Hong Kong SAR Government officials and pro-China camps have repeatedly said that the system is regulated under the Basic Law, and Hong Kong is not allowed to take back the approval right. Martin Lee said, however, before the Basic Law was announced, the drafting committee already proposed that the OWP system should be guarded by Hong Kong. Lu Ping, the then Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, made the excuse that there would be millions of Chinese rushing to Hong Kong and Hong Kong would not be able to handle, and insisted that China has the full control over the approval of OWP. After 16 years of the handover, it is about time, Lee said, to consider an amendment.
Lee pointed out that Article 22(4) of the Basic Law did not state that Hong Kong should not be involved in the OWP approval procedure, but only states that “For entry into the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, people from other parts of China must apply for approval.” He thinks that there is no need to amend the Basic Law nor apply for an interpretation of it, but recommends to involve Hong Kong in reviewing the OWP applications, in order to ensure that the claimed “families in Hong Kong” actually existed and check if the applicants had ever committed serious offenses in Hong Kong, and to express Hong Kong’s unwillingness to accept the application.
Lee also criticised that some of the new immigrants who emigrated to Hong Kong via the OWP System are not here to reunite with their families. Many of them do not actually reside in Hong Kong. He suspects that some are in fact members of the Ministry of State Security and Public Security, or event people that help with the vote rigging plan. After their OWP applications are approved, they get their Hong Kong Identity Card (residency) they move back to China, and after seven years they will receive their permanent residencies and are eligible to vote.
Martin Lee also discontent with the fact that after serious vote rigging activities were exposed, only one case involving one address with more than four different surnames of voters were registered at was investigated. He thinks that this is in a way teaching how to organise vote rigging – just plant the people that share the same surnames to register with the same address can prevent the cases being found out. He thinks that the authority should review the identities of all registered voters, and the Immigration Department should also review how many immigrants who emigrated to Hong Kong via the OWP system are actually resided in Hong Kong before approving their permanent residencies.
The report of the population policy consultation also recommends to improve the current import of labour system, which again triggered controversy. Members of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions took it to the street yesterday (27/Oct) criticising the government for using the population policy as a cover to relax the import of labour policy (see picture).