Under the new crown pneumonia (COVID-19) epidemic, the customs between China and Hong Kong have been closed for more than one and a half years, and many people with cross-border needs have experienced drastic changes in their lives.
A group of "two-way mothers" staying in Hong Kong to take care of their children will have to face multiple difficulties such as visas, return home, medical care, and livelihoods.
Some of them were criminally liable for overstaying. There were also cases in which even if they obtained an extended stay visa issued by the Immigration Department, they were fined by the mainland authorities for returning home late than the original deadline.
As the local epidemic has gradually eased, the Hong Kong government has repeatedly shown that it attaches great importance to customs clearance. A few days ago, Chief Secretary for Administration Li Jiachao led a delegation of experts to go north to discuss "full customs clearance." Without the implementation details for a day, the huge humanitarian costs resulting from customs closure and epidemic prevention may continue to increase, weighing on different groups.
Life is not the same as usual. Who is the "Two-way Permit Mother"?
"Two-way Permit Mothers" are a group of people who hold the "Travel Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau" (commonly known as "Two-way Permit") issued by the Mainland and "visiting relatives endorsement" to come to Hong Kong to reunite with their spouses and take care of their children.
The reason for holding a "two-way pass" is usually because they are still waiting for the one-way pass to be scheduled, or because they are not able to apply for the one-way pass due to factors such as divorce, out of wedlock and childbirth.
Before the "Two-way Permit Mother" comes to Hong Kong, it is usually necessary to obtain the "Entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau" and the endorsement for "visiting relatives" from the Mainland immigration department.
Those who hold two-way permits and endorsements to visit relatives are only allowed to stay in Hong Kong for three months each time and are not allowed to work in Hong Kong. However, some "two-way permit mothers" admitted in interviews that they have had their own issues for many years. The way to livelihood-some of them are "full-time mothers" in Hong Kong, and the husbands take on the responsibility of working outside the country to make money; others rely on the government's comprehensive assistance to husbands and sons to meet their daily needs and children's academic expenses.
Until the outbreak of the epidemic in early 2020, these "two-way mothers" began to stay in Hong Kong for a long time, and encountered many unexpected difficulties, such as difficulty in renewing their stay in Hong Kong, unable to bear the round-trip quarantine cost of returning to the Mainland to handle affairs, and being unable to cope with them. Hong Kong’s medical expenses have also affected the quality of life and mental health of its family members.
"Two-way permit mothers" are staying in Hong Kong during the epidemic and need to apply for extension of their visas to the Immigration Department several times during this period.
The number of people visiting relatives in the epidemic has increased significantly
The first problem encountered by "Two-way Permit Mothers" while staying in Hong Kong is that they have to renew their stay visas.
Such persons are staying in Hong Kong as "visitors", and it is illegal to stay overstay before and after the epidemic.
It is understood that before the new crown pneumonia epidemic, in order to obtain the renewal of the visitor visa, some urgent factors are required, such as hospitalization for an emergency before the visa expires and being asked by a doctor to stay in the hospital, or sudden court appearance.
Since the epidemic, the number of visa extensions granted by the Hong Kong government has increased significantly.
When the Immigration Department responded to the "Hong Kong 01" enquiry, it was confirmed that after the epidemic, the number of approvals for extension of stay of the Mainland "Two-way Permits" to visit relatives in Hong Kong has increased significantly compared with before the epidemic.
Today (2021) May 25, the government announced that more than 40,000 Mainland "Two-way Permits" are being allowed to stay in Hong Kong as visitors. Most of them are endorsed for "visiting relatives".
Shi Lishan, deputy director of the "Hong Kong Association of Community Organizations", a social welfare organization, also confirmed that most of the cases of staying in Hong Kong seeking help that the association has contacted were "two-way mothers" who came to visit relatives in Hong Kong.
The average monthly number of cases for extended stay visas has increased significantly in 2020 and 2021.
It is worth mentioning that, according to the total number of visa extensions granted by the Immigration Department in the past five years, the number has stabilized at around 310,000 to 320,000 from 2017 to 2019, but the number of applications in 2020 will exceed 530,000. There will be more than 450,000 applications in the first eight months of 2021.
This data includes all "visitors" (for example, visitors to Hong Kong, visiting relatives and business people, according to the HKTB, about 70% of them are from the Mainland) and "non-permanent residents" (for example, people who come to Hong Kong for school or work) .
Lam Cheng: Extend the stay period of "Two-way Permit Mother" at his discretion
In fact, the Hong Kong government has already proposed compassionate measures for the visa issue of "Two-way Permit Mothers."
Check the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's answer to the anti-epidemic press conference on February 3 (2020). She said that she would introduce more humane measures for mothers who hold two-way permits to take care of children in Hong Kong: "I don’t want her to always ask for Return to her place of origin and apply for renewal of the two-way permit, so the Director of Immigration will be sympathetic and discretionary to allow her to extend her stay in Hong Kong, reducing her need to continue to cross the border to obtain two-way permits to take care of these children in Hong Kong. These examples include A lot of."
On February 3, 2020, Carrie Lam said when attending a press conference that she would introduce humane measures for "two-way permit mothers" to extend their visas.
(Profile picture / Photo by Luo Junhao)
Although the number of cases approved for extension of stay has increased significantly, some applications have been rejected.
Shi Lishan, deputy director of the Hong Kong Association of Community Organizations, said in an interview with 01 that in the early stage of the epidemic (February 2020), many "two-way mothers" were "rejected" for help. Some people still had minor children and poor family conditions. "The Immigration Department is forced to leave."
According to the figures provided by the Immigration Department, the total number of visa extensions issued from 2017 to 2019 is roughly close to the number of applications, both around 300,000; the number of applications in 2020 is 537,068, and the number of approvals is 503,118, the number of applications approved and the number of applications The ratio is 93.7%; the number of applications in 2021 (as of August) is 451,659, and the number of approvals is 404,000.
The ratio of the number of approvals to the number of applications dropped from more than 95% in the previous three years to 93.7% in 2020, and then to 89.4% in 2021.
In other words, in 2020 and 2021, a relatively high proportion of cases were not approved (According to: a case not approved is not necessarily rejected, it may also be the voluntary withdrawal of the application or the failure to submit the basic materials).
According to the data analysis of the Immigration Department, a higher proportion of cases of extension of stay in 2020 and 2021 were not approved.
In fact, renewing a visa is not a free lunch. For some "two-way permit mothers" who are not financially well-off, in addition to paying a visa fee of 230 Hong Kong dollars each time, they must also prepare the materials before each expiration. , Go to the Immigration Department to submit an application, and the visa period allowed for each case is different, ranging from one or two weeks to four months, which means that they have to frequently go to the Immigration Department to apply for a visa.
But in order to stay in Hong Kong, these are "basic homework."
Immigration Department was rejected in some cases: consider individual cases
Reporters on the mainland social platform "Xiaohongshu" have seen that since the closure of the epidemic until recently, countless two-way permit visitors have shared their experience of visa renewal on the platform.
Most of them were granted visas ranging from one week to four months each time they applied, but there were also cases where their applications were rejected.
Some cases are confused about the approval criteria.
Some cases of rejected applications speculated that the problem was that their children had grown up or the reason for staying in Hong Kong was to take care of the elderly; some cases bluntly stated that it was the sixth time to renew their visas on the grounds that they were taking care of the mother-in-law with cancer, but only two were approved. Months, it also means that the period of stay is very tight for each approved period of stay.
▼ Many two-way permit visitors to relatives share their visa renewal experience on the Internet▼
However, there are still some cases who say that they have minor children, but the application is not as easy as imagined.
For example, although the application stated that they would take care of their underage sons and the elderly, the staff of the Immigration Department requested proof of relationship and proof that the elderly need to be taken care of; or they stated that they would take care of children and elderly people in their 80s, but the visa was refused until renewed. After submitting an application to the Immigration Department and providing proof of relationship, the two-month visa was approved.
In some cases where visas were denied, the Immigration Department stated in response to the 01 enquiry that it would not comment on the application status of the case, but emphasized that if visitors to Hong Kong need to extend their stay in Hong Kong for special reasons or difficulties, they can stay in Hong Kong. The application is submitted within 7 days before the expiration date, but the approval of the application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
It is understood that no matter before or after the epidemic, if there is an emergency for visitors to Hong Kong, most of the immigration department will approve the extension of stay, and even if not approved, they can reapply.
Shi Lishan: Immigration Department gradually relaxes examination and approval
Shi Lishan also expressed her understanding of the work of the Immigration Department, thinking that the Immigration Department has tried its best to help applicants solve their problems: "It's all miserable. There are so many cases for no reason. Don't cut it!".
She revealed that the association has reported the matter to the Immigration Department since February last year and provided the latter with a list of relevant cases and circumstances, and those on the list were subsequently granted extension of stay.
Shi Lishan, deputy director of the Hong Kong Association of Community Organizations, said in an interview with 01 that during the epidemic, many "two-way mothers" asked for help on visa issues.
(Information Picture/Photo by He Jiada)
Since March of the same year, the association has gradually felt that the Immigration Department has relaxed the approval of relevant cases. "Even if the cases are not on the list, as long as they need to take care of minor children, the visa has been approved." And the approved visa period It also gradually became longer, from the first two weeks to one month, and then to the later two and four months.
The association has not received similar requests for help afterwards.
On the other hand, Shi Laishan pointed out that the situation of "two-way permit mothers" has improved in recent years. For example, the mainland has shortened the waiting time for one-way permits in recent years.
She pointed out that in recent years, there have been almost no cases of mainland public security resorting to one-way permits for personal gains. Therefore, one-way permits will be granted to people who are truly qualified.
However, she also pointed out that during the epidemic, "two-way mothers" will encounter concerns from the mainland. "Because the time for allowing them to leave the country has expired, the mainland will ask you why you are not coming back, or even fine. They don't admit it. Your extension in Hong Kong.” She urged the mainland authorities to be more considerate of similar situations in the future, and might even consider arranging offices to provide these people with endorsements, one-way permit interviews and other services in Hong Kong to reduce the trouble of running around.
▼ On October 5, Carrie Lam will try his best to facilitate customs clearance between Hong Kong and the Mainland
The core question of the situation of the case: Who bears the humanitarian cost of customs closure?
Although the circumstances of the cases of "Two-way Permit Mothers" are different, the core issue is the "human cost" derived from the customs closure policy, that is, the damage and loss suffered by the people and society during this period, including Material, mental, health and social resources.
Ms. Miao, who is raising a 4-year-old child in Hong Kong, should have received a one-way permit and come to Hong Kong as a local resident if it were not for the epidemic.
But she is still a "two-way mother", and she overstayed for nearly a year because she "forgot" to renew her visa. She was only discovered when she was vaccinated. She was subsequently charged by the Hong Kong government and sentenced to 20 months of abiding behavior with a deadline. Outbound.
Ms. Miao admitted that she was responsible for her negligence, but she also regretted the lack of compassion from the government, so that she had to go back and forth to quarantine, wasting time and money and other extra costs to deal with it.
▼ Miss Miao said that if she can pass the customs, she will not overstay in Hong Kong ▼
Ms. Miao knew that she had undoubtedly made a huge mistake, but she also confided her grievances to reporters: her husband was busy with official business, and she had to take care of the children's daily life, food, return to school, and attend multiple interest classes, so she "forgot to renew her visa." He also claimed that in the months since the certificate expired, "I did not receive a call from the Immigration Department at all, but the consequences were personally borne." If you are reminded earlier, you can also reduce the subsequent cost.
She believes that the authorities' actions are unkind.
But her deep-seated aspiration is that customs clearance between the two places can be resumed as soon as possible.
She pointed out that if the two places pass the customs normally, her loss can be reduced, and even "there will be no such thing happening at all."
And even if it happens, it will not take a total of 35 days to isolate the two places, and even cause her child to be suspended from school due to no one being picked up.
Like Ms. Miao, many interviewed cases claimed to have paid mental, physical, and financial costs during the customs period, and they had strong expectations for customs clearance.
Although the government launched the Easy Entry Program on September 15 to allow non-Hong Kong residents to come to Hong Kong from quarantine, they still have to be quarantined for up to 21 days when they return to Hong Kong, and they need to be in Guangdong before using the Easy Entry. Stayed for two weeks, so their troubles were not completely relieved.
▼ The situation of Shenzhen Bay Port on the first day of the implementation of ``Easy to Hong Kong'' on 9.15▼
The government has recently continued to show concern about customs clearance issues.
The Chief Secretary for Administration Li Jiachao also led a delegation to the mainland to discuss comprehensive customs clearance. It can be seen that there are indeed strong reasons for customs clearance, and the government has actively promoted it.
However, the government and experts do not shy away from the fact that the current customs clearance between the two places needs to solve the problems of insufficient vaccination rates in Hong Kong and the lack of a tracking system similar to the mainland's "health code".
In response to the 01 enquiry, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau reiterated the Chief Executive’s remarks at the Executive Council and emphasized that the Central Committee fully understands that Hong Kong people are eagerly looking forward to returning to the Mainland without quarantine. Although they are gradually orderly and there are quotas in batches, they will still be willing. Consider, but this work must continue to work hard.
However, the outside world has not seen the timetable for customs clearance, and the related humanitarian costs will continue to wear down unless the two governments in the future make improvements in the isolation procedures, quarantine costs, medical benefits in Hong Kong and other issues charged by the two governments to share the impact. People suffer losses, but this is bound to increase administrative costs and bring disputes over resource allocation.
How to choose is testing the wisdom of the governments of the two places.
(Reporter Lin Zhiying also contributed to this article; Ms. Miao, the interviewee in this article, has a pseudonym)
Please pay attention to the series of reports on "Two-way Permit Mothers Staying in Hong Kong" (coming soon):
※The mother of the two-way permit stays in Hong Kong.
2. It takes 40 days to return home and then back to Hong Kong
※The mother of the two-way permit stays in Hong Kong.
Three | After being vaccinated in Hong Kong, the pain is difficult and it is difficult to return to the Mainland for medical treatment and financial difficulties
New crown pneumonia | Zhong Nanshan: It is expected that the Mainland and Hong Kong will be able to clear the new crown pneumonia in July | There is no timetable for two-way customs clearance. Lam Cheng: Vaccination can achieve convenient cross-border new crown pneumonia. Days and nights changed like a joke about the new crown pneumonia. The mainland has launched the world's first "vaccine passport". Is it dawning for Hong Kong to resume customs clearance?