Indonesian nationals could face visa restrictions to Hong Kong, as the city’s immigration authority considers an entry registration for all visitors from the home countries of a growing number of asylum seekers to stem the flow of migrants.
Among the current backlog of 10,922 refugee applications in the territory, 80 per cent of the claimants are from India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Only Indian and Indonesian nationals can enter Hong Kong without an entry permit.
“All visa requirements could be subject to review. Having a visa-free arrangement for now does not mean you will have it tomorrow ...”
Immigration director Eric Chan Kwok-ki, who will retire in three months, said on Monday all visitors from major source countries of refugees might need to obtain prior approval from the authority before entering Hong Kong, in a move aimed at deterring economic migrants and preventing the asylum mechanism from further abuse.
“Maybe they will need to submit an application to us. We will review their backgrounds and decide if they are allowed to travel to Hong Kong. This could be the direction,” Chan said.
When asked if it would mean imposing a visa restriction and was directed at countries including India, Chan only said: “The concept is similar to visa restriction. All visa requirements could be subject to review. Having a visa-free arrangement for now does not mean you will have it tomorrow.”
President of the India Association of Hong Kong, Mohan Chugani, said he found the idea “mind-blowing” and “shocking”. He said the arrangement would greatly harm business between the two places, as India is the seventh largest trading partner of Hong Kong.
“I do not rule out an abuse of the asylum system. But there are a great number of genuine Indian tourists and business men working in Hong Kong,” said Chugani.
“There is a rising number of Indian middle class in the city. We are spending as much as the mainland Chinese tourists do.”
Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union chairperson Sringatin saw the screening as a form of discrimination based on nationality and prejudice against all asylum seekers.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who claimed the situation regarding asylum seekers was becoming increasingly serious in Hong Kong, will lead a business delegation to India on Tuesday to foster closer economic and trade relations between the two places.
It is unclear if Leung intends to touch on the topic with the Indian officials.
The security panel will discuss the review of the strategy in handling asylum claims in the Legislative Council today. SCMP