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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

China, Hong Kong

China has 400 million urban residents and 800 million rural residents. There are about 260 million urban workers of working age, 18 to 60, and between 12 and 26 million of them are unemployed. China's leaders have said an eight percent growth rate is necessary to maintain economic and social stability; in the first half of 1998, the economy grew by seven percent.

Shanghai, a city of 13 million, had about 35,000 reported crimes in 1997, about 10 percent as many as New York City, which has about half as many residents. Shanghai police blame the crime on the three million migrants, known as waidiren, who moved from elsewhere in China to Shanghai, although officials note that some of the 1.3 million Shanghai residents laid off from state-owned enterprises also commit crimes.

A new policy should speed the process by which mainland Chinese wives are granted permission to join their husbands in Hong Kong. The Guangdong's Public Security Bureau centralized applications for residency in Hong Kong and Macau as of August 7. The old system set quotas for each city depending on its population. By June, 1998, 370,000 spouses of Hong Kong residents had obtained permits to emigrate; some had waited more than 10 years.

Hong Kong. Hong Kong immigration officers stopped stamping Taiwanese passports with a warning that Taiwanese visitors should not claim to represent any Taiwanese organizations while in Hong Kong, fly flags, display emblems or engage in activities which would "embarrass" the SAR government. The immigration department began using the stamp in June, but stopped the practice after complaints by Taiwan officials. In 1997, 1.78 million Taiwanese visited Hong Kong.

There are 170,000 foreign maids in Hong Kong, of whom 85 percent are Filipina. The SAR government has increased penalties to prevent overstaying and to discourage maids from abandoning their contracts.

Immigration consultants say that up to a third of the 500,000 Hong Kong immigrants in Canada are returning to Hong Kong because the Canadian government is cracking down on those who spend more time abroad than in their adopted homeland. Those returning to Hong Kong were escaping high unemployment in Canada and searching for better jobs.

Aspiring citizens must spend at least three of their first four years - or 1,095 days - in Canada. Ottawa is asking courts to refuse citizenship to migrants who spend more than half their time abroad.

Hong Kong under British rule once had a "touch-base" policy--anyone who arrived from the mainland could stay. Today, those apprehended from the mainland are often jailed for three years.

An illegal construction worker can reportedly earn about $165 a week in Hong Kong, compared to $75 a month in China. Many Chinese come to Hong Kong to visit relatives for two weeks to three months, and then go to work despite stiff sanctions-- up to $50,000 fines for workers and two years in jail, and $350,000 fines and three years in jail for employers. In the first six months of 1998, some 2,000 mainland Chinese were arrested in Hong Kong, compared to 2,087 in all of 1997. Hong Kong has 3.3 million workers, including 130,000 unemployed.


Martin Wong, "$1m for immigration dream which did not come true," Hong Kong Standard, August 14, 1998. Peter Lim, "Illegal workers," Agence France Presse, August 10, 1998. Glenn Schloss, "Migrants head home to SAR," South China Morning Post, August 7, 1998. Glenn Schloss and Dennis Engbarth, "Warning to Taiwan visitors dropped," South China Morning Post, July 19, 1998.