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Chinese Migrants on Hunger Strike in Hong Kong - 2002-03-18

Dozens of mainland Chinese abode seekers in Hong Kong went on a hunger strike to fight a court ruling ordering them to leave the territory. But the group faces deportation at the end of the month.

Hong Kong's immigration department remains firm it will not grant an extension of stay for more than 100 mainland Chinese now living in Hong Kong. The abode seekers say they will refuse food until the government overturns a decision to send them back to China.

The immigrants had been ordered to leave the territory after Hong Kong's Final Appeals Court ruled early this year that they do not qualify to stay in Hong Kong. Most of the abode seekers are children of mainland immigrants who are legal residents of Hong Kong.

Among those helping the group is Father Franco Mella, a Catholic priest, who explained why the group chose to protest with a hunger strike. "We thought the best and most effective way to counter the evil that is present in the system is to go on hunger strike," said Father Mella. "So we started the hunger strike and we will go on until the 31 of the month."

One of the demonstrators, Yu Yuek Pang, said he applied for residency in 1998 and has been waiting to join his parents here in permanently since then. He said the government has been unfair to him and his fellow protesters.

The hunger strike is the latest in a series of protests over the past few weeks by the abode seekers. Their case poses a major dilemma for Hong Kong. Beijing overturned a Hong Kong court ruling in 1999 allowing mainland children with one parent in the territory to settle permanently. China is concerned about a massive influx of immigrants into its capitalist southern special administrative region.