Amid fears that Hong Kong is being overrun by mainland immigrants due to the so-called One-way Permit (OWP) scheme, there have been discussions in society about the city’s social planning and population policy.
Meanwhile, left-wing groups and mainland immigrant organizations that are in favor of the OWP scheme have been insisting that family reunion is a human right.
Personally, I am of the view that building one’s family through marriage is a basic human right, but cross-border immigration in the name of family reunion is a completely different thing.
Those who are in favor of the OWP scheme have often cited the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to back their arguments.
If we go through the ICCPR carefully, we can find that the second part of Article 23 of the treaty stipulates that “the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.”
Yet “cross-border family reunion” isn’t a recognized right in any of the article in the convention, nor has it mentioned that married couples of whom both sides come from different countries or jurisdictions are necessarily entitled to the right of reunion.
I have personally known quite a number of locally born young couples who have faced huge difficulties in buying or renting homes due to the city’s acute housing shortage and skyrocketing property prices.
As a result, many of them still have to live with their parents separately even after they have got married.
This is exactly the kind of woes that are now plaguing Hong Kong. As the population continues to soar, mainly due to the continual influx of mainlanders through the OWP scheme and other immigration programs, local families and couples are now deprived of the right of reunion.
Even if the argument that “family reunion is a human right” really stands, shouldn’t our government be giving priority to local families and couples over the cross-border ones?
Maintaining cross-border family reunions regardless of the carrying capacity of the city’s population has already had profound and far-reaching implications for Hong Kong, in aspects such as housing distribution, healthcare service, social welfare and the availability of urban space.
In order to redress the situation, I believe authorities must curb the population growth “at source” by drastically cutting the daily quotas of one-way permits.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 3
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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