Last week the Immigration Department released figures concerning protection claimants for the first eleven months of 2013: there were 474 new claims between January and November. This is the lowest total since 2000 and remarkable compared to a record 3286 claims in the whole of 2009. An 85 per-cent drop is significant even accounting for delays in filing (12-months according to ImmD) and the impact of a right-to-work judgment in early 2009.
The hardline Guardians of the City of Refuge are undoubtedly celebrating this victory. Hong Kong welcomed 2.5 million refugees in the Twentieth Century before the gates of asylum slammed shut. Conversely, in the last decade an intransigent message was dispatched to lands of persecution, “Make no mistake – We will send you back and make life hell until you leave!” The Guardians then devised a master plan to achieve their goal.
The Guardians first implemented policies to discourage asylum seeking. They then set rules for a filtering process, for the survival of the fittest, or the persecuted, in this case. To appear to comply with the rule of law, masterminds coated unconstitutional practices with a veneer of decency. Control of both enforcement and welfare services ensured undisputed domination of the field.
There were no posters or press releases to announce The Asylum Games. The rules were not formulated piecemeal – as one is lead to believe – but determined by a ruthless strategy to divide and conquer. Like in any great magic trick, players are played without realizing it. They face the odds of bulls dodging matadors, with the difference that bulls fight for their life.
Restrictions imposed on asylum are a clear indication of an unwillingness to grant it.
In the summer of 2004 the Asylum Games were quietly opened after the Guardians were soundly defeated by the Prabakar Judgment. They unanimously agreed that high standards of fairness were indeed necessary to safeguard the interests of stakeholders, namely, the Guardians of prosperity. How preposterous to suggest pesky refugees should be treated fairly for contributing nothing!
Vision First coined the expression ‘culture of rejection’ to denote covert hostility towards asylum in a city that should theoretically grants refuge. It illustrates a dislocation between the reality in the street and promises enshrined in law. It helps to explains the paradox of offering asylum, while disallowing it. The ‘culture of rejection’ becomes the game theory behind the undeclared rules of the Asylum Games:
- Zero winners (to discourage applications and illusions of winning)
- No announcement of winners (to maintain a psychological advantage)
- Low entry requirements (to avoid unregistered players)
- Insignificant assistance (to ensure use of own resources)
- Limited emergency support (to starve players of official resources)
- Minimal private aid (to offer the illusion of fair play)
- Arrests through entrapment (to increase stress and instill fear)
- Long prison sentences (to knock out players and encourage withdrawal)
- Antagonistic biased referees (to guarantee one-sided fairness)
- Voluntary departures (to hide forced removal of players)
- Manipulative propaganda (to ensure a crushing home advantage)
- Negative overseas promotion (to deter interest and participation)
For the Guardians, the Asylum Games have been a resounding success. The zero winners rule has been a technical win for twenty-one years. The Guardians dominated the field with undisputed control, notwithstanding disruptions by raucous supporters in the Human Rights Corner. By enforcing harsh and uncompromising rules, the Guardians might achieve their ultimate goal – scrapping of the Asylum Games altogether.