Hong Kong authorities have been urged by a pro-democracy lawmaker to extend the notice period for marriage to give the country enough time to look into cases of suspected marriage arrangements.
Immigrants coming to Hong Kong from mainland China have been involved in cases of suspected sham marriages according to Gary Fan, a lawmaker of Neo Democrats party.
Many of these immigrants entered the country via a family reunion enabled scheme, Gary said. He explained that Hong Kong authorities could not vet all one-way permits given to immigrants from Mainland China based on current arrangements.
Lessons from Other Countries
The lawmaker made reference to recent policies tightening by UK and Australia to nip sham marriages in the bud.
According to a report by Legislative Council Secretariat, the notice period for marriage in the UK has been extended to 28 days while suspected cases can take as long as 70 days. Australia has made faking marriages a criminal offense according to the same report.
Both countries have employed several strategies, including online identity verification, to investigate identities considered bogus and uncover organized crimes.
Fan challenged Hong Kong to learn from these countries. If there are questions about a proposed marriage by mainland people in Hong Kong, the period should then be extended before the marriage registration officers will issue a marriage certificate in order to give law enforcement agents ample time to investigate. One-way permit holders should also be investigated to ensure they have overseas assets when applying for public housing and social welfare.
Fan swiftly moved to clarify that he is not trying to prevent the family reunion. He said some families waited so long that they had no option than to bribe mainland officials to hasten the process. The only way to family reunions faster is by fighting sham marriages and false documents, Fan said.
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