Chinese state mouthpiece People’s Daily has blamed Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp for enabling an alleged flow of “fake refugees” from Southeast Asia who are abusing the asylum system.

The commentary in Wednesday’s overseas edition claimed that “bogus refugees” have created a negative impact on the city’s public security and economic development. It suggested that asylum seekers do not face torture in their own countries, but wished to earn money on the black market. The newspaper quoted some Hong Kong lawmakers calling for “fake refugees” to be immediately repatriated.

People's Daily fake refugee
The commentary on Hong Kong fake refugees as published by the People’s Daily.

In November, the city’s largest pro-Beijing party published a survey suggesting that 80 percent of Hongkongers believed there is a need for increased cooperation with mainland authorities to combat the issue.

In December, a pro-Beijing lawmaker put forward a non-binding motion asking the government to review the refugee screening mechanism in the Legislative Council. It also proposed imposing a cap on publicly-funded legal assistance and setting up holding centres. The motion was rejected after the pro-democracy camp voted against it.

A protest initiated by the Refugee Union demanding justice for refugees. Photo: Refugee Union.

‘Hypocrisy and discrimination’

Lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, a member of the pro-democracy Professional Commons party, said measures proposed by the pro-Beijing camp would apply to all refugees.

“It is clear to us that many of the measures which they are talking about – such as encampments – would be applied to all asylum seekers. Such is the hypocrisy and discrimination in disguise,” he said.

Currently, each asylum seeker in Hong Kong receives HK$3,000 each month from the government.

Charles Mok. File Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok
Charles Mok. File Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok

Peter Maina of the NGO Refugee Union told HKFP that Hong Kong has a “ridiculously low” acceptance rate of refugees and that it is unfair to insinuate that all of them are bogus.

“We believe that every individual should be subjected to the due process of the law, without prejudice, in [a] fair and credible refugee screening system to determine whether his or her claim is genuine or not,” Mania said. “How can these individuals explain why fake refugees come only to Hong Kong? Do all refugees who arrive in Hong Kong know each other before coming to Hong Kong? Do they consult each other in advance?”

In March, former Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said that up to 99 percent of torture claimants in Hong Kong were not actually tortured.

In January, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed at a Policy Address press conference that the government might quit a United Nations convention on torture to block “bogus” refugees from coming to Hong Kong. Local NGOs have since blasted Leung’s comments.

Eric Cheung

Eric Cheung

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).