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Chinese Migrants Defy Repatriation Order - 2002-04-01

Hundreds of mainland Chinese immigrants have defied a Hong Kong government deadline to return to China and vowed to resist deportation. Negotiations are underway for a peaceful resolution to the impasse.

Hours after a deadline passed for the Chinese to return to the mainland, dozens remain camped outside Hong Kong's legislative building. Some offered Buddhist prayers for a successful result to their petition. They want the government to allow them to stay permanently in Hong Kong and live with their relatives.

The group, mostly children of Chinese immigrants who are permanent residents of Hong Kong, now faces forced deportation. A government spokesman said more than 4,000 had already left Hong Kong Monday morning.

At least 5,000 mainland Chinese lost an appeal in January for the right to live in Hong Kong. Last month, hundreds of them staged a hunger strike to pressure the government to let them stay.

A Hong Kong court had granted residency to many of the mainland Chinese three years ago, but Beijing eventually overturned that ruling.

This is one of the most sensitive issues facing Hong Kong since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. The government has kept strict control on the number of Chinese immigrants into this small but prosperous special administrative region of China.

The Hong Kong government said it will start "repatriation action," but it is unclear what action it will take and when.

Police were watching those protesting outside the legislative building Monday, but did not make any move to apprehend them.

One tearful woman said she will defy the police. She cried that all her family members are in Hong Kong and she will do anything to be with them.

Amid concern that the standoff could turn violent, police have urged the migrants to remain calm and go home as ordered. Two years ago, some Chinese immigrants threw fire bombs at an immigration office, killing two people and injuring dozens others.