A 5,000-strong group of Chinese nationals seeking permanent residency in Hong Kong Monday lost their latest legal battle to stay when the appeal court turned down their claim to right of abode.
Three appeal court judges rejected the petition from the 5,000 mainlanders who had overstayed their visits or entered Hong Kong illegally.
The 159-page ruling stated that most of the applicants should return home to apply to the mainland Chinese authorities for permits allowing them to resettle in Hong Kong.
Judge Brian Keith said the ruling dashed the hopes of many abode seekers, but it had been necessary to apply the law.
The court ruled that only abode seekers whose applications pre-dated new legislature could gain the right of residence.
Less than 1,000 of the 5,000 current claimants would benefit from the ruling, a court source said, adding the decision affected some 10,000 abode seekers now in Hong Kong.
Pam Baker, a lawyer representing the 5,000, told reporters she would decide whether to launch an appeal against the ruling after studying the 159-page judgment.
Rob Brook, another lawyer representing the abode seekers, expressed his disappointment over the rulling, saying "what it is about is mainland children having the right to live with their parents."
"This is the right recognized worldwide," he said, adding such a right "has been a fundamental human right."
Meanwhile, many mainlanders seeking right of abode were disappointed by the ruling and vowed to fight to the end.
"The ruling failed to take into account our circumstances," one of the abode seekers identified as Choi told AFP.
"It is unfair as my parents, brothers and sisters are permanent residents in Hong Kong," said Choi, 40, who came to seek the right of abode from southeastern China's Fujian province, after Beijing's reinterpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law in June 1999.
"I will not leave Hong Kong no matter what," he vowed.
The members of the group had overstayed their visit beyond visa expiry dates, arguing they had the right of abode because their parents were permanent residents in Hong Kong.
Their livelihoods depend mainly on their family in Hong Kong but they do get occasional low paying jobs amid fears of being arrested for working illegally.
The latest decision followed a ruling by the Court of First Instance on June 30 rejecting the claims.
Claimants had argued they should be entitled under a Court of Final Appeal ruling in their favor on January 29, 1999 -- which was later overturned by Beijing.
The Court of Final Appeal had ruled that mainland children born to at least one Hong Kong parent had the right to settle here, even if the parent was not a resident at the time of the birth.
But the Hong Kong government claimed the ruling would lead to the influx of up to 1.67 million mainland Chinese and asked Beijing for a reinterpretation of immigration provisions under Basic Law, Hong Kong's de facto constitution since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
In June 1999, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing upheld the government's appeal, prompting international concern that the independence of the courts in the former British territory had been gravely compromised.
Since then, abode seekers have staged marches and protests.
An arson attack on August 2 was the most violent , resulting in the death of a senior immigration officer. Some 50 people were hurt -- HONG KONG (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)