More than 55,000 mainlanders have settled in Hong Kong over the past 12 months under the “one-way permit” scheme, a new spike in recent years, with an average of 152 new arrivals per day, slightly higher than the quota of 150.
Provisional estimate of the Hong Kong population was 7,389,500 at mid-2017, with a net increase of 52,900, or 0.7 percent from 7,336,600 a year ago, according to the Census and Statistics Department.
Population increase comprises natural increase (i.e. births less deaths) and net movement of Hong Kong residents (i.e. inflow less outflow).
The natural increase of the population from mid-2016 to mid-2017 was 14,300, with 59,600 births and 45,300 deaths, while there was a net movement of 38,600 people, of whom 17,100 were net outflow of Hong Kong residents to overseas destinations.
The net inflow of 55,700 were so-called one-way permit holders, mainland residents that emigrated to Hong Kong mainly for family reunion purposes, such as wives joining husbands or children reuniting with their parents.
The sizable new arrivals have become Hong Kong’s single largest source of population growth. In all, about 900,000 people, mostly married women and children under the age of 18, have acquired residency through the scheme in the past 20 years since the 1997 handover, according to a Legislative Council filing, while other concern groups put the figure at over a million.
The application, vetting, approval and issuance of such one-way permits fall within the remit of the mainland authorities. There is no input or verification from Hong Kong, which can only receive as many newcomers as the mainland side deems appropriate.
Since May 1997, mainland authorities have implemented a points system with the eligibility points announced through the internet. The system sets out the criteria for assessment and the priority of applicants.
Continuous inflow of these mainlanders has been a contentious issue. One common misgiving is that Hong Kong’s social welfare and public services may be stretched with the demand from these new arrivals, who, for instance, make up much of the growing list of public housing applicants, exacerbating the city’s housing woes.
The government also has to divert extra resources for language and training assistance since many of them may not be able to speak Cantonese or English or didn’t have the chance for a tertiary education while they were in the mainland.
In a reply to a Legco inquiry, Secretary for Security John Lee said Hong Kong must continue to receive permit holders on humanitarian grounds, and that the SAR government sees no justification to request the mainland to change the existing scheme or approval arrangements.
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