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November 1999, Volume 6, Number 11

China/Hong Kong

China's economy is expected to grow by eight percent in 1999; Hong Kong's is expected to shrink by one percent in 1999. There have been many recent articles about China's role in the world of the 21st century, with authors in disagreement about whether China is an emerging world power. "Does China Matter?" in the September/October 1999 Foreign Affairs, notes that China accounts for only three percent of world trade, about the same as South Korea and the Netherlands.

Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, along the Silk Road in Central Asia, is the site of a massive security crackdown to repress a potential separatist movement mounted by Kashgar's majority Uighurs. The Uighurs hope to create the independent country of East Turkestan.

In Kashgar, there is a growing polarization between the Han Chinese and the more traditional Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language based on Arabic script. Uighurs say Chinese immigrants of taking all the jobs; Chinese accuse Uighurs of failing to appreciate the development they are bringing to the area.

Xinjiang's eight million Uighurs represent just one of 55 officially designated ethnic minorities, most of them concentrated in areas along China's borders. Xinjiang shares a 3,350-mile border with countries such as Afghanistan, the disputed province of Kashmire and the newly independent states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

In 1949, when the Communist Party took control of Xinjiang, it was 76 percent Uighur and six percent Chinese. In 1997, Uighurs were 46.6 percent of the population and Han Chinese 38 percent. Most of the immigration of the Han Chinese occurred during the 1950s and 60s as part of a policy to populate minority areas with Chinese. Kashgar is one of the last towns in which the Uighurs are still a majority.

Uighurs are blamed for several bombings, assassinations and they have staged two mini-uprisings. Some authorities say that terrorist Osama Bin Laden is behind the violence that peaked in 1997.

China's Rural Migrants. Beijing claims to have expelled 300,000 migrants from the city to ensure that the city was clean for the Communist Party's 50th anniversary celebrations on October 1. The clean-up campaign was repeated in China's major cities.

In 1996, the authorities used 5,000 armed police and soldiers to break up "Zhejiang village", a shanty of narrow streets, dwellings and sweat-shops on the southern edge of Beijing where some 52,000 entrepreneurial migrants from Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, produced much of the capital's clothing.

The success of these campaigns is often short-lived. An estimated 60 percent of China's 1.2 billion people still make a meager living on the land. Nearly all new jobs are in the cites and many are considered beneath the dignity of urban residents, such as street sweeping, rubbish collection and caring for children.

A report by New York-based Human Rights in China found that several million Chinese a year, almost all of them migrants, are locked up in China's more than 700 detention camps. According to the report, China has a little-known "custody and repatriation" policy that allows arbitrary detention that by-passes all judicial procedures. The detention camps, classified at "welfare" centers, have poor conditions, those held are physically abused and work long hours, including children.

Hong Kong. Hong Kong in 1994 offered up to 1,000 slots to mainland experts from a wide range of professions. About 600 mainland Chinese moved to Hong Kong under the program, which ended in 1997.

In October 1999, Hong Kong announced a new guest worker program that would allow an unlimited number of mainland Chinese with a PhD to be employed temporarily in Hong Kong in information technology, multimedia-based industry, fashion and business support services. These high-tech guest workers could change jobs after a year, as well as bring their family members to Hong Kong.

Textile and garment employers are requesting permission to import guest workers; unions are opposed. A proposed Hong Kong law that would permit employers to dismiss pregnant foreign maids brought a protest from the Philippine government. Pregnant maids would have to leave within 14 days.

Mainland Chinese who arrive in Hong Kong and attempt to stay because they have a parent born in Hong Kong, and thus have the eventual right to move there, continue to protest by arriving on tourist visas and refusing to return to China. About 1,700 marched through the streets of Hong Kong on October 24, demanding that the Chinese government allow any mainland Chinese resident with a Hong Kong parent to move to Hong Kong. About 112 mainland overstayers and their parents staged a protest outside Immigration Tower in Wan Chai in October.

In January 1999, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal gave a broad interpretation to who could join parents in Hong Kong. On July 17, 1999, China's National People's Congress Standing Committee reinterpreted the Basic Law to sharply limit family unification rights.

On October 25, 1999 the Court of Final Appeal began hearing arguments in a case in which migrants argued that they cannot be sent back to mainland China simply because they lack an exit permit, a certificate of entitlement. The Hong Kong government says migrants must have a certificate of entitlement before they can be awarded right of abode, while migrants argue that corrupt mainland officials charge fees and bribes to issue certificates. The migrants say that the Hong Kong Director of Immigration must at least consider their evidence that they have the right of abode under the Basic Law rather than simply deporting them to China.

The Chinese government is considering requiring the collection of DNA samples from illegitimate mainland children applying for certificates of entitlement. In a paper provided to legislators, security officials said there had not been any surge in the number of certificate of entitlement applications since new procedures were introduced on July 17.

Hong Kong prohibits newly arrived immigrants from receiving welfare for one year.


Dirk Beveridge, "British legacy facing stiff Hong Kong tests," AP, October 18, 1999. Liz Sly, "Ethnic crisis brews in China," Chicago Tribune, October 19, 1999. "Undesirable, maybe, but vital," The Economist, October 16, 1999. "At the bottom of the heap," The Economist, October 16, 1999. Stella Lee, " Unlimited mainland hi-tech talent to be imported," South China Morning Post, October 7, 1999. Stella Lee, "Mainland role in DNA tests," South China Morning Post, September 14, 1999.