Hong Kong passes immigration invoice, raising alarm over ‘exit bans’

HONG KONG, April 28 – Hong Kong’s legislature handed on Wednesday a controversial immigration invoice, which legal professionals, diplomats and proper teams worry will give authorities limitless powers to stop residents and others from getting into or leaving the Chinese-ruled metropolis.

The authorities has dismissed these fears as “complete nonsense,” saying the laws, which can come into impact on Aug. 1, merely goals to display unlawful immigrants at supply amid a backlog of asylum functions and doesn’t have an effect on constitutional rights of free motion.

“We are facing increasing challenges, especially preventing the number of illegal immigrants from rising and claimants from abusing the system,” Security Secretary John Lee stated, including that journey rights stay assured and that the federal government will introduce subsidiary laws within the close to time period.

The assurances, nevertheless, are available a local weather of distrust after the more and more authoritarian path officers have taken the imposition of a sweeping nationwide safety legislation by Beijing final year.

“What is concerning is that in hastily pushing this bill forward, the government has chosen to ignore civil society groups that have flagged legitimate concerns,” stated Michael Vidler, a lawyer with Vidler & Co Solicitors.

Lawyers say the brand new legislation will empower authorities to bar anybody, with no courtroom order, from getting into or leaving Hong Kong – primarily opening the door for mainland China-style exit bans – and fails to stop indefinite detention for refugees.

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) stated in February the invoice failed to elucidate why such powers had been obligatory, how they might be used and supplied no restrict on the length of any journey ban, nor any safeguards in opposition to abuse.

The Security Bureau stated the legislation could be utilized solely to inbound flights and goal unlawful immigrants, expressing disappointment on the “unnecessary misunderstanding” brought on by HKBA.

Still, legal professionals, diplomats, commerce unions and business our bodies had been puzzled by the federal government’s reluctance so as to add the said limitations into the invoice.

A gaggle of US senators final year estimated a minimum of two dozen US residents had been prevented from leaving China in recent times and face common surveillance and harassment by authorities. China denies international nationals are beneath risk of arbitrary detention or exit bans.

Refugee rights

Activists additionally say the brand new laws raises considerations about refugees’ rights and well-being. It permits immigration officers to hold weapons and, in some instances, requires asylum seekers to speak in a language aside from their mom tongue.

The authorities says there are at the moment 13,000 refugee claimants in Hong Kong and that it desires to sort out the backlog.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat informed the legislature the variety of refugees was “a threat to peace and stability” and the town wanted to heal this “cancer.”

The screening course of can take years and the claimants’ success rate is one %. During that interval, it’s unlawful for asylum seekers to work or volunteer and so they dwell in limbo, on meals vouchers.

Currently, asylum seekers could be detained provided that they break the legislation or for deportation, for a “reasonable” interval.

The invoice provides that authorities may detain a refugee if “the person poses, or is likely to pose, a threat or security risk to the community” and doesn’t state what constitutes such a threat. Rights teams say it broadens the scope for indefinite detention.

David, 25, was granted asylum after arriving from an east African nation 4 years in the past. He stated he was detained for 92 days whereas being processed and the brand new invoice may result in an excellent worse expertise for brand new claimants.

“It’s pretty terrifying, being there without knowing … how long you’re gong to be there for,” stated David, who requested Reuters to not use his full identify as a result of sensitivity of the matter. 

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