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Hong Kong Police Arrest Illegal Migrants - 2002-05-30

Hong Kong authorities have raided 20 homes and arrested 13 illegal migrants from mainland China. The sweep is one of largest in a series of efforts to deport migrants defying orders to leave the city.

The police raids are part of a campaign in Hong Kong to arrest and deport thousands of illegal mainland Chinese migrants.

Police entered about 20 homes, and arrested four women, nine men, and two boys. Hundreds of migrants are believed to have gone into hiding.

The government is forcing about 4,000 migrants back to mainland China. Most of them are the children of mainlanders who migrated to Hong Kong decades ago, but were unable to get permits for their children to join them. The residency seekers then entered Hong Kong illegally.

After years of court battles, the latecomers failed to gain permanent residency and were ordered to leave earlier this year. A March 31 deadline for their return to China was widely ignored.

Authorities have deported only a fraction of the illegal migrants. About 450 have been sent back.

Rob Brook is a lawyer who represented many of the migrants, who claim what is known in Hong Kong as the right of abode. "What we have seen is quite a lot of resistance to leaving voluntarily from the applicant who were here claiming right of abode and if they have to do house raids for all 4,000 then it is going to take a very long time," he said. "So I am not sure that this is a tactic that is feasible in the long term. It is certainly not going to end up resolving the right of abode controversy in Hong Kong anytime soon."

About a dozen relatives and friends of the residency seekers held an emotional demonstration outside Hong Kong's Immigration Department. They accuse the government of being merciless and of abusing human rights by splitting up families.

Although Hong Kong returned to Chinese control in 1997, after 150 years of British colonial rule, it maintains strict border controls with the mainland.

A few years ago, the local Hong Kong government made it tougher for mainland children of Hong Kong parents to migrate to Hong Kong. The move came after worries surfaced that the territory could be overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands mainland Chinese migrants over the next 20 years.