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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

China, Macao and Hong Kong

China's economy grew seven percent in 1999 to $1 trillion and is expected to expand by seven percent in 2000. Nonetheless, the number of labor disputes in China was more than 120,000 in 1999, up from 8,150 in 1992, as workers in unprecedented numbers get laid off, are paid late or not at all and feel cheated by corrupt officials.

China's rural work force is growing fast— up 10 million a year between 2000 and 2005, compared to an increase of 7.6 million a year in the late 1990s. Many experts, led by Zhang Wenbao, vice director of the Agricultural Ministry's Research Center for Rural Economy, are calling on the government to ease restrictions on internal mobility, arguing that it is economically irrational to trap up to 600 million workers in rural and agricultural areas where many are not needed.

All Chinese are required to carry their registration cards, which identify their city, town or village of residence and employment. Migrants are barred from certain occupations outside their place of registration.

Macao. Children of Chinese nationality who are living in inland areas of China and whose parents are permanent residents of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), will soon be able to apply for permanent residence in Macao. Chinese authorities say they will use the experience gained in handling family unification requests of children moving from China to the Hong Kong SAR.

According to the 24th Article of the Macao SAR Basic Law, children of Chinese nationality who are living in mainland China and whose parents are Macao permanent residents had the right of residence in Macao on December 20, 1999, when China regained sovereignty. A monthly quota of 420 has been set for children to join their parents as permanent residents of Macao. Priority will be given to the youngest children who have both parents living in Macao. Children with one parent living in Macao and the other living on the Chinese mainland will get priority in accordance with the length of time their parents have lived apart.

Hong Kong. About 10 percent of the 50,000 babies born in Hong Kong each year are born to mainland women who overstay their visitor visas. The number is rising; the High Court ruled in December 1999 that Chinese babies born in Hong Kong automatically receive the right of abode, even if their parents are not Hong Kong permanent residents. Hong Kong fines the mainland women HK$500, and returns them to the mainland; their children often stay with relatives in Hong Kong.

A Hong Kong legislator urged the immigration department to install video cameras at all border checkpoints to avoid abuses of migrants. An immigration control facility will be set up near Hong Kong Disneyland in northern Lantau to check the mainland Chinese expected to visit the theme park. Some 5.2 million people, including 20 percent from the mainland, are expected to visit Hong Kong Disneyland in the first year after its opening in 2005.

Immigration officials report that mainlanders hired illegally to work at wholesale markets are being paid only one-third of prevailing wages. In March 2000, some 22 suspected illegal workers arrested at a wholesale vegetable market reported being paid HK$60 a day for unloading vegetables from trucks, while the prevailing wage was HK$220. The illegal workers were two-way permit holders who entered Hong Kong on tourist visas valid for up to three months. Hong Kong interior enforcement staff apprehended 3,738 suspected illegal workers in 1999.

The neighboring Chinese province of Guangdong has proposed that mainlanders caught working illegally in Hong Kong be barred from re-entering Hong Kong from one to five years.

Filipinos were 53 percent of the 227,000 foreign workers employed in Hong Kong in 1998. The minimum wage for domestic helper, the most common job title, was reduced five percent in 1998 to HK$3,650, and the Hong Kong government proposed not allowing domestic helpers to drive in Hong Kong.

In February, the Hong Kong government announced that it will be shutting down the last remaining refugee camp, Pillar Point, that houses 1,070 Vietnamese refugees. The government has agreed to give most of the remaining Vietnamese legal status in Hong Kong, although about 130 are classified as illegal immigrants or economic migrants and do not qualify. Those granted legal status must leave the refugee camp by May 31, 2000. The camp has had an open-door policy, and the Vietnamese have been encouraged to find jobs outside.


"Chinese risk jail to give birth in HK," Straits Times, March 28, 2000.