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UN Criticizes Hong Kong Government Over Repatriations - 2002-07-04

Hong Kong's government faced fresh criticism on Thursday when activists released a letter from the United Nations urging the city to pay better attention to human rights when repatriating mainland migrants. Authorities in Hong Kong have sent hundreds of migrants back to China recently in a 'get-tough' policy on illegal immigration.

The letter from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights criticizes Hong Kong for splitting up migrant families. Law Yuk Kai an activist for the migrants, said the letter originally was presented to China's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

"The letter in black and white said that the Hong Kong government has violated their obligations under the international covenant on economic social and cultural rights," Mr. Law said.

Although part of China, Hong Kong maintains strict border controls with the mainland. The government fears tens of thousands of migrants with family in Hong Kong could flood the territory, and burden its health and welfare systems.

About 4,000 mainlanders were ordered to leave Hong Kong earlier this year, after loosing a last-ditch court battle to stay. Only a handful obeyed, the rest defied the order. Authorities have rounded up and deported a few hundred of the migrants, while some have left voluntarily. Most are the mainland-born children of legal Hong Kong residents.

Bill Yan was one of eight representatives who went before the United Nations to explain the plight of residency seekers. He said the problem originates with China's policy of restricting couples to having one child. Many Hong Kong residents marry mainlanders, and then have to wait years to bring their spouses, and children, into the territory.

"Because when the spouse are allowed to reunion with their family in Hong Kong they only allowed to bring along one of their child no matter how many they have. The rest of the children have to stay in mainland China," Mr. Yan said.

Some lawmakers and lawyers say the Hong Kong government should grant the current group of residency seekers amnesty, as many have lived here for years and consider themselves victims of a ambiguous immigration policy.