The number of mainland Chinese teenagers emigrating to Hong Kong doubled to over 10,000 last year, after having remained stable for the past five years.

For each year between 2012 and 2015, the city received around 5,000 mainland immigrants holding One-way Permits aged 10 to 19, said Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah.

lok ma chau
Lok Ma Chau immigration control point. File photo: GovHK.

But in 2016, a total of 10,538 teenage immigrants holding the permit came to Hong Kong.

Mainland authorities can grant a maximum of 150 Permits for Proceeding to Hong Kong and Macau – known as One-way Permits – to prospective immigrants each day. China’s Ministry of Public Security vets the applications, not Hong Kong.

Lau revealed the statistics on Wednesday in response to a question by pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat at the Legislative Council, but he did not explain why the number had doubled.

‘Overage children’ policy?

Sze Lai-shan of the NGO Society for Community Organisation told local media that the sudden spike in teenage immigrants may have been caused by a mainland policy allowing the children of mainland-born parents who obtained Hong Kong residency before 2001 to settle in the city.

The “overage children” policy came into effect in 2011, and a typical application takes at least four years, reported Ming Pao.

immigration tower wanchai
File photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The first batch of applications treated by mainland authorities in 2011 were those of children whose parents came to Hong Kong before 1979.

These children would now be middle-aged, and Sze speculated that they have also applied for their own children to come to Hong Kong as dependents – leading to the spike in teenage immigrants last year.

The Census and Statistics Department said in February that the total number of One-way Permit holders who came to Hong Kong in 2016, irrespective of age, was 57,400. This figure increased by around 40,000 each year between 2013 to 2015.

Secretary for Home Affairs Lau added that community integration, education support, employment training and welfare services have been provided to immigrants in need.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.