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Chinese Migrant Seeks Asylum in Australian Embassy - 2002-06-27

A mainland Chinese migrant, living in Hong Kong facing forceful repatriation, walked into the Australian Consulate demanding asylum. The man is one of nearly 4,000 immigrants who have been denied residency in Hong Kong and have been ordered to leave.

The Australian Consulate here in Hong Kong immediately announced that Cheng Chiu-leung had no grounds for his claim of political asylum.

Mr. Cheng approached Australian officials on Thursday morning demanding refuge. He says he is being persecuted by the Hong Kong government, which intends to deport him and several thousand other mainland-born migrants.

Mr. Cheng complains that only his age is preventing him from staying with his parents, grandparents and brother - all of whom are Hong Kong residents. Mr. Cheng, now 31, was born in Guangdong Province and says he has been seeking the legal right to remain in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.

So Mr. Cheng says that he wanted to move to Australia where his sister lives.

In many ways Mr. Cheng is typical of mainland migrants who remained in Hong Kong for years and even decades in the hopes of eventually gaining permanent status.

Like some 4,000 migrants, he has seen his long battle for permanent residency dashed in the face of a change in government policy.

Hong Kong maintains strict border control and separate legal and government systems from Mainland China, even though it reverted to Chinese sovereignty in July of 1997.

The local Hong Kong administration has sought to limit migration from China after fears emerged that millions of mainland-born children of Hong Kong parents could hold claims to permanent status and overwhelm the territory.

After winning a series of legal battles, Hong Kong authorities are now trying to deport the 3,600 immigrants who have been denied residency rights and have ignored the April first deadline to leave.

Local civil rights activists say the government's policy is doing little more than keeping families apart.