It is reproachable that at times persons whose opinions might be esteemed, and should thus carefully word and base statements on facts, cast judgments that verge on xenophobic intolerance, contrary to the best interest of Hong Kong. As a commentator in a local newspaper recently observed, “We often say we want to be a world Asian city, but we behave like a village”.
One example is Mr. Fung Keung’s op-ed published on 8 October in the China Daily, which contains several mistakes to say the least.
First, a rise of arrested asylum seekers from 683 to 904 in a three-year span is hardly indicative of a crime surge when contemporaneously asylum applications increased several folds to over 10,000. Comparatively, it could be argued that the crime rate among asylum seekers has decreased over the period, and indeed is quite low given that many work to support themselves. It is notorious that welfare assistance for asylum seekers is insufficient to make ends meet.
Second, that asylum seekers are arrested for crimes other than working illegally to a larger extent than before may not necessary show that asylum seekers are turning to violence. Rather it may be dependent on which crimes and who is policed in society, and related priorities of law enforcement.
Third, Fung hints that the victims “are believed to be Hong Kong citizens” and asylum seekers should not be accepted in Hong Kong because the city owes them nothing. Rather asylum seekers, when compared to Singapore, make Hong Kong dirty and unsafe, hurting citizens who would otherwise live in a peaceful environment.
Overlooking for a moment international and domestic legal obligations towards refugees, Vision First queries, does Fung really think that local citizens do not commit crimes? Who does Fung think are the employers and recruiters of asylum seekers? Who does Fung believe are the people whose behavior is learnt and with whom connections are made in local prisons by asylum seekers? Perhaps an overview of police charts would have helped Fung formulate more accurate opinions.
Fourth, it is arguable that asylum seekers borrow money from their smugglers, leaving them no choice but to commit crimes to repay such debts. This would certainly be a situation akin to trafficking, in which case Fung should be concerned of Hong Kong responsibilities in setting up a policy framework that tolerates such circumstances. In reality, research supports conclusions quite opposite to Fung’s intolerant views. Vision First would certainly appreciate if Fung agreed to disclose the research he conducted to ground such opinions. A rapid search online did not produce satisfactory results.
Fifth, Fung argues that it is “common sense” that “tells us that religious and political persecution in these countries is extremely rare”. Vision First cannot but query if the same “common sense” is used by immigration officers and adjudicator when screening asylum seekers. The increasing number of rejections being quashed by court judges, often for failure to fully appraise country of origin information, would certainly call for a revision of such unhelpful “common sense”.
What happened to the universal and unalienable right to seek asylum?
What happened to the benefit of doubt through the assessment process?
What happened to trumpeted (but not respected) high standards of fairness?
What happened to critical thinking by media outlets?
What is happening to refugee rights in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong Government policy on seeking asylum: “According to the Secretary for Security, foreigners who smuggled themselves into Hong Kong, and visitors who overstayed their limit of stay allowed by the Immigration Department (“ImmD”) or who were refused entry by ImmD upon arrival in Hong Kong (collectively known as “illegal immigrants”) are liable to be removed from Hong Kong in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance (Cap. 115) (“the Ordinance”). To safeguard immigration control and for public interest, they should be removed as soon as practicable. However, pursuant to the United Nations Convention Against Torture which applies to Hong Kong since 1992, and multiple court rulings since 2004, ImmD cannot remove illegal immigrants to another country where they would face a genuine and personal risk of being subjected to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or persecution. Moreover, the court rulings mandate that if an illegal immigrant alleges that he would face such risks upon removal to another country, he cannot be removed from Hong Kong to that country unless such risks are assessed by ImmD to be unsubstantiated under procedures which meet the high standards of fairness.”
The plight of the refugees in Hong Kong, is the consequence of a system that isolates and leaves them in an endless waiting out of sight of the rest of the population in unsanitary slums. About 10,000 refugees live in of Hong Kong, mostly coming from Indian subcontinent, but also from Vietnam, Indonesia or Horn of Africa.
Most of them have fled persecution in their country, hoping to find refuge in Hong Kong. This city isn’t the haven they were hoping for. Hong Kong hasn’t signed the Geneva Convention and gives only a very small number of refugees status. Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, refugees are registered as asylum seeker and their passports are confiscated.
Normally, it takes three years to process their applications, but some are still waiting after eight years and they aren’t allow to work. Refugees have access only to tiny rooms in slums in the New Territories. Initially these slums weren’t made for housing, these are shacks,or former farms built or refurbished by unscrupulous owners.