SCMP Thursday, June 21, 2001

Tape sheds light on claim

Below is an extract of the tape said to be a recording of a conversation between an abode-seeker and an immigration officer. Abode-seekers are claiming they are being forced to drop their battle to stay in Hong Kong if they want to visit the mainland.
Details which could reveal the identity of the abode-seeker have been omitted.
Immigration officer: You have written a letter to the Chief Executive to request to stay in Hong Kong. The Chief Executive is considering it. If you want to go back, it's simple. You have to write a letter to the Chief Executive telling him when you wrote to his office asking for right of abode and that now you have decided to return to the mainland and want to cancel the petition.
Abode-seeker: I need to write [the letter]?
Immigration officer: Of course.
Abode-seeker: I can only go back by writing it? If I do not write to the Chief Executive, I can't go back?
Immigration officer: [If you don't] you'll have to wait for the result [of the petition].
Immigration officer: You should not say you have right of abode. A recognisance letter [the document that extends the stay of mainlanders who have overstayed] does not mean you have such a right . . .
Only the people who were in Hong Kong between July 1, 1997, and January 29, 1999 - and the Immigration Department has a record that they had submitted a claim - have right of abode.
Abode-seeker: But if I go back, will I still be given a recognisance letter?
Immigration officer: No. Going back is going back. You can come again with a two-way permit, but if you overstay, you'll be detained . . . Unless you are allowed out on bail. No one can guarantee that when you come to Hong Kong next time, we'll give you the recognisance letter.
Abode-seeker: Please write [the letter] for me.
Immigration officer: I will not help you write it.
Abode-seeker: Please write the format for me.
Immigration officer: I told you how to write it last time. "I, X, have written to the Chief Executive on X to request for right to stay. But after some consideration, I have decided to return to mainland and want to cancel the petition." Then the signature.