The South China Morning Post reports that 100,000 Mainlanders who are adult children of Hong Kong citizens are likely to take advantage of their right of abode here, which takes effect today. Those of us with long memories will recall the great trauma of 1999, when the courts read the law as meaning what it said and confirmed this right, prompting the government to warn that this would result in 1.67 million ravenous human locusts descending on the Big Lychee and stripping it bare – thus necessitating an ‘interpretation’ (essentially an invisible amendment) of the Basic Law by Beijing to decree that no such right existed.
This set the precedent, since employed on constitutional issues, for Beijing to declare the meaning of the Basic Law to be whatever is politically convenient on the day regardless of the mini-constitution’s wording. It was Hong Kong’s first significant reminder that it was now in a one-party state in which nothing, including a Special Administrative Region’s Court of ‘Final’ Appeal or the law in general, may override the ruling power. When officials declare the importance of rule of law in this city they neglect to add that all bets are off if the Chinese Communist Party feels it is affected.
Most Hongkongers, still bitter at a previous influx of Vietnamese boat people, were pleased to keep the hordes out; meanwhile, the fight to enable the separated families to reunite continued, led notably by the Catholic Church. Then the Hong Kong government revisited the whole issue and decided that actually we could use some human locusts after all. There was the famous Aging Population Menace, which threatened civilization as we knew it. And Chief Executive Donald Tsang had a thing about headcounts and seemed to feel running a city with a seven-digit population was beneath him; Hong Kong needed 10 million people, he said at one point, to be a real international financial centre. (Before anyone says ‘New York’ or ‘London’, don’t forget this is the same demographics genius who said our air quality must be OK because we have a long life expectancy.)
Thus it came to pass that it was OK to let at least certain sizable cohorts of the grown-up mainland offspring of Hongkongers into the city after all. The SCMP quotes its favourite source, ‘a person familiar with the policy’, as saying that of the 169,000 eligible perhaps 60% would come, forming a ‘healthy, youthful influx … aged between 30 and 50’. These new, healthy and youthful production units are, it seems, earmarked for the construction, catering and security industries, which suggests that they may not be the highly skilled, creative, entrepreneurial talent who will transform Hong Kong into the globalized, new-age, digital, whiz-bang knowledge economy we hear so much about.
The paranoid will see this as yet another Beijing-inspired measure to swamp the Big Lychee with all things Mainland and patriotic and dilute the decidedly non-healthy and non-youthful colonial cultural residue that – some say – festers in the natives’ hearts and minds. Cynics will spy a rather obvious move to counteract future upward pressure on the new minimum wage by increasing the labour pool by another 100,000 happy to slave away on HK$28 an hour for years to come. The pragmatic will wonder where these newcomers will live. Something will have to make way to create space for all these new builders and dishwashers. Turning to page three of the SCMP, it all becomes clear…
I propose one tiddly extra constraint on the “healthy, youthful” incomers – let’s make it female exclusive.
After the 1999 HK Court of Semi-Final Appeal judgment on right of abode, the HK Secretary for Security, one Regina Yip, came out with a figure of over 3 million mainlanders invading HK as a result of the judgment.
In 1999, Regina Yip gave a refusal to permit Wang Dan and other overseas dissidents to enter into Hong Kong for “operational reasons” and that the decisions were said to be made in line with “existing policies”. As a result, these dissidents were excluded from an event to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the June 4th Massacre.
The Government denied that the refusal to allow the dissidents to enter Hong Kong was based on political reasons. Instead Regina Yip said that its decision was based on “operational considerations” and “existing policy”.
Hopefully Regina, assisted by Semen, Yankee Yan & Aching Bones, when campaigning next year for a legislative seat will be given such a resounding F*ck Off by the voters that it will be heard as far away as Beijing.
I look forward with dread to the CFA’s decision on the Congo immunity case.
“…non-healthy and non-youthful colonial cultural residue…” Hmm. You mean (I presume) “aged, vampire/tapeworm types, of non-local provenance”…sheesh.
walk around HKU and you’ll see where the young bright things are. I’ve heard the same about Chinese U.
How nice to see Hemlock reference a couple of court cases and their links to political and social developments in Hong Kong – would be good to see more, Mr. H! Perhaps you could send Odell – who understands English, mainly – to court for some of the many critical migration and human rights related cases percolating through the courts these days: C. v Director of Immigration especially, M.A. (right-to-work case), Ubamaka, and so on. Most decisions on HK’s future are at this point being made in Beijing, but a few – with some degree of influence on how long and according to what principles Hong Kong survives as something other than just another Chinese coastal megacity – are still made in Hong Kong, in court. Just a thought.
Hemlock old chap, on your proposal that an “interpretation” of the Basic Law is an invisible amendment, I beg to differ. For you have but forgotten the legal maxim that reads “Rex non potest peccare” – that the Mao Zedong can do no wrong.
By exercising his prerogative of final interpretation qua Article 158 of the Basic Law, his Honourable Chairman Mao, acting through his democratic organ of the people by the name of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is in fact affording such degree of respect to the Basic Law that is unheard of in other corners of the Middle Kingdom.
It takes only one pregnant wife of a peasant at the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital to break a law that 1.3 billion upholds. More importantly, it is a process that nomads, gypsies and Peking Men alike must painfully go through. Res ipsa loquitur, as the Law Lords would say.
To simplify matters, we exist, as fellow obedient servants, at the pleasure of Chairman Mao, as does the Japanese Pacific Islanders the grace of their Tennou Heika (His Majesty Akihito, son of the rather atrocious Hirohito).
We may share a dozen MBEs, OBEs or even knighthoods for those of us who are lucky enough to hold full British citizenships (as opposed to the Chinese takeaways that are BNOs). Lest we forget the hand who feeds us, and God forbid eschewing the same. Not unless with soy sauce and real wasabi shavings.