The Immigration Department announced today that between 2005 and May of this year 186 people who have overstayed their visa have been allowed to remain in Hong Kong.

The comment was made after People Power legislator Chan Chi-chuen asked Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok for the number of overstayers who have been allowed to stay in the city.

Lai said the department had exercised discretion in allowing 186 people to remain in the city, and that the Education Bureau had also allowed 32 applications from mainland children on recognisance to attend school in the territory.

Lai added the Director of Immigration would only grant exceptions to allow individuals to stay with “unique and sufficient justifications” and with regard to “prevailing public interest”.

Hong Kong immigration department building
Hong Kong Immigration Department building in Wan Chai. Photo: WikiMedia

The maximum punishment for a person convicted of contravening their condition of stay is a $50,000 fine and two years imprisonment.

Controversy surrounding the granting of citizenship to overstayers in Hong Kong arose after Siu Yau-wai, a boy from the mainland who arrived in Hong Kong at the age of three under a two-way permit, continued to reside in the territory for nine years with his grandmother. Siu was unable to attend school because he did not have the right of abode.

Unable to attend school because he did not have the right of abode, Siu’s grandmother with the assistance of legislator Chan Yuen-han brought the case into the public eye, which stirred controversy in the city as to whether an overstayed person should be granted right of abode.

Siu Yau Wai protest localist
Demonstrators at the primary school which considered granting admission to Siu Wau-wai. Photo: WikiMedia

Protesters argued Siu’s grandmother was being dishonest about her grandchild’s background by declaring he had no relatives in the mainland, and were concerned that Siu’s case could set a precedent for a flood of mainland children to be granted permanent residency and admitted into Hong Kong schools.

Eric is currently a Bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Eric has his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong events and politics. His work has been published on The Guardian, Reuters and ABC News (America).