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Mainland Chinese Vow to Fight for Right to Stay in Hong Kong - 2002-04-03

Thousands of Mainland Chinese have been fighting for years, and some even decades, to gain the legal right to stay with their families in Hong Kong. Most of them have lost the fight, but they are not giving up,and many of them vow to continue their battle through legal channels and public protest.

Police watched quietly but did not intervene as hundreds of mainland Chinese protesters sat outside a Hong Kong courthouse shouting slogans of defiance against a court order dictating their repatriation.

The court has given the 4,000 or so Chinese who came here to join their families until the end of March to go back to China, and both Beijing and the Hong Kong governments have urged them to comply or be deported.

But most of them are not giving up. One of the mainlanders who sought residency here gave himself up Wednesday and was slapped with a hefty fine on his arrival in the People's Republic of China.

Martina says her parents and brother gained residency in Hong Kong years ago, but she has never been successful. Now, more than 10 years after first arriving in Hong Kong as a 12-year-old, Martina said she faces deportation and separation from her family.

Despite this, she said she will continue to wage her legal battle with the Hong Kong government, and she is not afraid of being arrested.

But exactly what course of legal action she, and others like her, can take at this point is not clear. The Court of Final Appeal's decision handed down in January, bars any further legal action by the residency seekers.

But one source representing the mainland Chinese said several dozen of them plan to sue the government for emotional and financial damages.

The Hong Kong government's response is lawsuit or not the illegal immigrants will not be allowed to stay, and may be removed by force.

Meanwhile, Margaret Ng, a prominent Hong Kong legislator, said the government fears being viewed as weak and is therefore not offering concessions.

"I think lawyers are very concerned, both because of the government's attitudes towards the law and the absolute rejection of humanitarian grounds. It seems to say Hong Kong has become the sort of place (for) these sad stories, separation of families leaving parents in illness and loneliness, and leaving children without anyone to care for ... we are accepting this as part of life, and this is very shocking to me personally," she said. Gianni Criveller, a Catholic priest who is on the front lines of the immigrants' battle, denounces the Hong Kong government for what he called the disregarding of the human plight of the mainland Chinese. He said the government never tried to find a solution for families facing separation.

"The Hong Kong government promised somehow to try to work out with mainland, but, in fact, they did not come out with any practical proposal so in fact these people were not left with many options," Mr. Criveller said.

Back in 1999, the Hong Kong government, fearing an influx of Chinese mainland citizens, persuaded the Chinese government to issue an interpretation of a Hong Kong court ruling that granted permanent residency to any child of a Hong Kong parent. Beijing obliged and overturned the Hong Kong decision on a technicality.

Many observers see the Hong Kong government's move as a breach of its obligation to the territory's autonomy, instituted after the former British colony was reunified with China in 1997.