Integrate Hong Kong Society and Support Family Reunion Petition For Immigration Approval Right

Integrate Hong Kong Society and Support Family Reunion
Petition For Immigration Approval Right,
Return Autonomy Based on Just Principles to Hong Kong

Co-sign Statement
October 6, 2013

Hong Kong faces severe lack of affordable housing. The middle-class cannot afford to buy; the grassroots must wait extensively in the increasingly long queue for public housing. Everyone is forced to pay exorbitant rent meanwhile. The problem lies in the government’s unequal distribution of land and housing resources in favor of the real estate lobby. It tries to manipulate the situation by divide and rule, pitting one distressed constituency in Hong Kong in need of housing against another and create unnecessary social divisions, like persuading urban population in need of housing to endorse the demolition of rural homes in order to build their own. The government claims the “shortage of land” to justify large-scale development projects and the real culprit is the real estate hegemony. But unfortunately, some people disregard this core problem behind the government's “blind rush to grab land,” take the government’s claim on face value, and attribute the problem to “too many new immigrants” coming in. They displace the blame onto new immigrants with One Way Permits through a malicious analogy: turning the “reduce waste at the source” slogan into their “reduce population at the source” slogan, implicitly comparing immigrants to waste matter. This imagined population problem is a way to divert attention from and downplay the problem of uneven distribution of land and housing resources. By so doing, they become de facto accomplices of the real estate hegemony and also reinforce the prejudice against new immigrants, aggravating social schism in Hong Kong.

The real culprit of Hong Kong’s land and housing problems is the real estate hegemony

Hong Kong’s record high land price is the consequence of the collusion between the SAR government and the real estate oligarchy. Together they form a real estate hegemony, which only emphasizes the exchange value of land and housing and encourages speculation, to the extent that they impede Hong Kong people’s fight for affordable housing.

 According to Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department figures, Hong Kong's population growth has actually slowed down. However, the government continues to exaggerate projections of future population growth as an excuse to open up more and more land for development. The fact is, Hong Kong does not lack land. Vacant government land lots abound, much of which are reserved for small houses of indigenous people, clubhouses, short-term tenancies, and other undetermined uses, totaling more than 2000 hectares. If according to government calculations, an average of 400 home units can be built per hectare, then nearly 900,000 units can be built on these vacant lots alone, without resuming any land at all. The fact is, so long as land supply decisions are determined by the real estate hegemony, expensive condominiums will still be prioritized, and people’s difficulty in buying their first homes or renting a public housing unit will not be resolved, however much land we open up. Recently, developers have explicitly declared their preference to develop the country parks that the public frequents rather than the golf courses they exclusively enjoy. Obviously, they are the crux of Hong Kong’s land problem, not the new immigrants.

 The “reduce population at the source” slogan unfairly blames vulnerable new immigrants and their families for the problems cause by uneven distribution of land and housing resources. By advocating the reduction of One Way Permit immigrant entries to Hong Kong for family reunion purposes as a way to reduce population growth, these people misguidedly disregard the long-term pain of separated Hong Kong-China families, exploit the growing tension between Hong Kong and Chinese people, feed into the growing sense of resentment against mainlanders, and by so doing, effectively displace public attention away from the injustice caused by the real estate hegemony and government business collusion to the witch hunt against marginalized scapegoats. This in effect, unwisely allows officials and businessmen to shirk responsibility and earn easy political capital, at the expense of everyone else.

 Petition For Immigration Approval Right, Pursue Autonomy Based on Just Principles

“Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy” is a right stated in the Basic Law. Fighting for autonomy, like fighting for democracy, is the goal of political reform for Hong Kong. We believe that our immigration approval right pertains to Hong Kong's autonomy, and the SAR Government ought to strive for this decision making power. However, the execising of autonomy over immigration approval must be based on Hong Kong’s core values (universal values) to ensure the maintenance of a civilized and just society. Recently, a “xenophobic” constituency is hammering the narrow understanding of autonomy as an “exclusionary autonomy” against immigrants. We believe that this “exclusionary autonomy” does not comply with the principle of justice underlining all core values of Hong Kong, because family reunion for Hong Kong people is internationally recognized as a basic human right. It cannot be denied. Therefore, we advocate a kind of “autonomy based on just principles,” and thus, the petition for Hong Kong’s immigration approval right must adhere to the core values of Hong Kong. Hong Kong people must not be deprived of the basic human right to family reunion.

 Hong Kong people need to strive for greater power to participate in the approval of One Way Permits (OWP). Currently OWPs are solely approved by mainland authorities, different provinces and cities have different procedures, and the time-consuming process frequently takes up to four/five years, putting many Hong Kong-China families under immense distress. Therefore, in the short-run, we demand the expedient setting-up of a China-Hong Kong liaison working group comprising of representatives from both sides to review immigration arrangements between the two places, and to handle OWP and Two Way Permit (TWP) application complaints and appeals. In the long-run, we petition for the return of immigration approval right to Hong Kong so as to make the approval system fairer and more transparent, and to allow Hong Kong to achieve full autonomy over its immigration policy.

 Review Tourism and Population Policies

In 2003, China and Hong Kong signed the “Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement” and kick started the “individual travel” policy, extending from initially four cities in Guangdong province to the present 49 cities. Consequently, mainland visitors to Hong Kong surge in numbers from 16.5 million in 2002 to 4,192 million in 2012, constituting a more than 1.5 fold increase. The dramatic increase in the number of visitors put the local public transport system, community facilities and daily consumption habits under overwhelming stress. This profound impact on people’s livelihood created the public impression that Hong Kong is overcrowded to the point of explosion, all the more frustrating because in the past decade, the Government never consulted Hong Kong people prior to signing related agreements with Mainland China.

We believe that the Hong Kong Government must review the existing tourism policy, re-estimate Hong Kong’s tourist reception capacity, plan to readjust and realign tourism related services and facilities as well as visitor entry arrangements.

 Coinciding with the population policy review to be launched in October, we think the government should review the “individual travel” policy in tandem. In addition, we also believe that the Government should consult the public on the revision of population and immigration policies like the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP), Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES), as well as the arrangements for mainlanders to study and work in Hong Kong. This is necessary to more accurately assess population trends and re-design population policy appropriate to present Hong Kong conditions.

In conclusion, we have the following demands:

1. The real culprit of Hong Kong’s land and housing problems is the real estate hegemony. Stop scapegoating new immigrants.
 2. We want autonomy based on just principles. Reform the One Way Permit Immigration Approval procedure. In the short-run, establish a Hong Kong-China Liaison Group to oversee matters. In the long-run, return immigration approval right to Hong Kong.
3. Expedite Review of Hong Kong’s Tourism Policy.
4. Initiate public consultation and review of immigration policy. Revise population policy.

Initiating Organizations
Land Justice League, Alliance for Concerning Grassroots Housing Rights, New Arrival women League, Concerning CSSA and Low Income Alliance, Shadow Long Term Housing Strategies Steering Committee, Alliance for Children Development Rights, Cross Border Children Coalition

Undersigned groups
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, Hong Kong Federation of Student, Alliance for Concerning Mainland-HK Families’ Rights, League of Social Democrats

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