‘Let us work’ plead mainland mums of HK children

A group of single mothers from the mainland are calling on the government to let them work here, saying they have been left destitute because they have not been able to cross the border to earn a living during the pandemic.

While their Hong Kong-born children are in school here, the women – who are either widowed or have separated from their Hong Kong husbands – do not have ID cards and can’t legally work in the SAR.

Sze Lai-shan from the Society for Community Organisation, which is assisting them, said many have lost their source of income since the outbreak of Covid-19.

“Some of them had jobs before, they had some part-time work [on the mainland],” she said during a press conference on Sunday.

But now if they were to go back to the mainland, they have to be quarantined for 14 days, and after they return to Hong Kong, they have to be isolated at home for 14 more days.

A mother who identified herself as Ada said the quarantine rules meant she could no longer be a parallel trader – buying goods for resale across the border – and she had lost a monthly income of HK$2,000.

She said she and her 13-year-old daughter are now relying on HK$5,000 in monthly government welfare for the child, but it is barely enough for the two of them to get by.

“I buy four potions of vegetables with HK$10 when the market is about to close,” she said.

She added that she could no longer afford tutorial lessons for her child, even though her schoolwork has got worse after virtual classes began during the pandemic.

Sze said Ada was not an individual case.

Sze said her group interviewed more than 50 mothers and found six out of ten families like Ada’s are in a similar situation. Some can only afford one or two meals a day.

She said the government should offer them temporary financial assistance, adding that their plight is taking a toll on their mental health, as around 90 percent have reported symptoms of depression.

Because they are no longer with their Hong Kong husbands, the women are not eligible for one-way permits, which grant them the right to residency in the SAR. Sze urged the government to grant them the permits so they can earn a living in the SAR while caring for their children.

She said it’s unreasonable to expect them go back to the mainland with their children because many of the women have been living in Hong Kong for a long time. Some 70 percent had moved here more than a decade ago.

The children would also have to change schools, and may not be able to get into a school on the mainland.