17 October 2019
After protesters put stickers on the school wall urging illegal immigrant Siu Yau-wai to leave Hong Kong, a pupil cries: "[Siu is] breaking the law, so what?" Photo: Apple Daily
After protesters put stickers on the school wall urging illegal immigrant Siu Yau-wai to leave Hong Kong, a pupil cries: "[Siu is] breaking the law, so what?" Photo: Apple Daily

Sister Han’s political stunt backfires

After seeing a lot of banners and stickers left by protesters who condemn the school for considering providing a seat to the undocumented mainland boy Siu Yau-wai (also known as Xiao Youhuai), a crying pupil at the Confucian Tai Shing Primary School stepped up and asked why they were doing this.

“[Siu is] breaking the law, so what?” she asked.

The question sounds philosophical – Can humanity, authority’s orders and personal connections override the law? Should we uphold procedural justice?

There is no doubt that the law should be humane while those who break the law should continue to enjoy their human rights. In Siu’s case, he deserves to be granted a chance to study in Hong Kong, although he is an illegal resident.

However, it is unlikely that Siu will eventually be granted Hong Kong citizenship as the central government clearly understands that the issue might become bigger than the one triggered by mainlanders’ parallel trading activities.

If we examine the issue closely, the saga surrounding Siu is an example of a social incident in Hong Kong being exploited by a politician.

As a seasoned “political animal”, lawmaker and trade unionist Chan Yuen-han, who has highlighted the case of Siu and paved way for the 12-year-old to get temporary residence papers, is a true master of political calculation and packaging.

However, as the old saying goes, even Homer sometimes nods, there are times when even an expert like Chan — who bears the nickname “Sister Han” — makes mistakes.

Her plan to use Siu as a propaganda tool has not only backfired, but also put the child in a difficult position.

If Chan’s action really stemmed from her genuine concern for Siu’s well-being, then she shouldn’t have done so in such a high-profile manner. Obviously, it wasn’t about helping Siu; votes from new immigrants is what Chan is after.

There is no doubt that Chan is well-connected, and that she has used her influence over the Immigration Department, the Education Bureau and school authorities.

It was only after all the preparations had been made that Chan finally called a press conference to bring Siu under the spotlight. It was clearly a carefully plotted publicity stunt.

However, thanks to the long-standing and firmly established tradition of the rule of law in Hong Kong, such collaboration between politicians and the bureaucracy to bend the rules didn’t work out this time.

In fact Siu would probably have gained his Hong Kong ID and successfully got enrolled in a school without the public knowing about it had Chan been more patient in claiming credit.

With the case coming to light, indigenous groups have quickly seized the opportunity to raise their voice against preferential treatment for any illegal resident.

At this stage I believe it is in the public interest to repatriate Siu immediately because there is simply no legal justification for him to stay in Hong Kong. 

In fact Siu may have a more promising future in Shenzhen than in Hong Kong, as Shenzhen is quickly closing its gap with us in terms of living standard and economic development.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 26.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Lawmaker and trade unionist Chan Yuen-han has been accused of using the case of the illegal mainland boy to further her political interests. Photo: HKEJ

HKEJ columnist