Suffer Not

I am always extremely proud and happy to be a Hong Kong citizen, with three stars on my ID card and a HKSAR passport in my pocket. But just occasionally some of my fellow Hongkongers do something which leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth.

Take this latest episode of the 12 year old (ought to be but isn’t) schoolboy. The facts of the case are pretty straightforward. He was born in the mainland where his parents abandoned him at the age of three. His grandmother then secured some false documents and got him across the border into Hong Kong and he has lived here ever since. Being without legitimate documents, he has never been registered to go to school.

Grandma has now stepped forward and confessed to the crime she committed nine years ago. (Such a stark statement can hardly be said to prejudice her rights: the confession was made live on TV). She has done so because she realises that with advancing years she will not be able to take care of the lad much longer. Moreover without an education he will never be able to take proper care of himself. A recent very sad suicide by a young girl whose circumstances had some similar aspects brought matters to a head.

Quite why Chan Yuen Han, an experienced legislator with over 30 years in public life, thought the best way to help them was to call a press conference in an attempt to publically strong-arm the Director of Immigration is a complete mystery. If anything it has had the opposite effect.

But let us leave that aside for the moment, for what happened next reached new heights – or plumbed new depths -- of crassness.

Various pressure groups and organisations came out of the shadows – or from under a rock – to demand the grandmother be prosecuted and the child deported. At least four of them – Civic Passion, Localism Power, Hong Kong Indigenous and Hong Kong Blue Righteous Revolt – were happy to be named in media reports. Some even demonstrated to protest against a school which offered to test the boy for education aptitude.

Now let us take these two "demands" one by one. Grandma will unfortunately have to be prosecuted. She committed an unlawful act, or a lawful act by unlawful means ("actus reus") by using false documents to take the boy across the border, knowing that it was wrong to do so viz while possessing a guilty mind ("mens rea") these being the two elements under our common law system usually needed to constitute a crime.

There was no need for anyone to remind the immigration authorities of their duty because they were certain to do it unprompted. The demonstrators just wanted a platform with which to express their hatred of all things connected with the mainland.

But is it really the mark of a civilised society to deport a de facto orphan? Have some minds become so twisted that they will take revenge for their frustrations in other areas out on a child? They should hang their heads in shame.

The only party to come out of the saga thus far with real credit is the Confucian Tai Shing Primary School in Wongtaisin which did what anyone with a heart would do – reach out to help the victim. This is in the best traditions of Hong Kong and Chinese culture. Adults stepping forward to assist children in need.

Grandma is almost certainly off to court, probably to be given a custodial sentence. The most she can realistically hope for is to find a sympathetic magistrate on a good day who may be prepared to suspend the sentence.

But how do we deal appropriately with the boy? He has now returned "voluntarily" to Shenzhen, but I hope that is not the end of the story. I seem to remember that 150 one way permits are issued by mainland authorities each day (that’s 55,000 per year) allowing the holders to come to Hong Kong to live. It would be nice if one could be set aside for Siu Yau Wai. That way the "self deportation" could be speedily reversed, we can triumphantly welcome him home and get him in to school where he belongs.