3. Can Hong Kong permanent resident status be lost?

Under Hong Kong's Immigration Ordinance, the status of a permanent resident can be lost. Despite its name, it is not necessarily "permanent", as the following scenarios show.

  1. A permanent resident who is a Chinese citizen loses permanent residence on ceasing to be a Chinese citizen.
  2. Permanent residents who are not Chinese citizens lose that status if they are absent from Hong Kong for any continuous period of 3 years or more (paragraph 7 of schedule 1 to the Immigration Ordinance).

Legal scholars believe that the current law on the loss of permanent residence may be unconstitutional, and that it may be struck down by the courts. The legal arguments are complex, but in essence these scholars say that "permanent" under the Basic Law (which is considered to be Hong Kong's mini-constitution) means forever, and cannot lawfully be limited by the Immigration Ordinance.

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