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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hong Kong to Deport Thousands

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong officials said Monday they would deport thousands of mainland Chinese who have lost legal battles to stay in the territory, ignoring pleas from the migrants who say their removal will tear families apart.

Security officials said they would issue deportation orders in phases against the migrants and would resort to both "routine" and "special operations" to find and remove them.

"If people report voluntarily to the Immigration Department, they will be repatriated," Deputy Security Secretary Michael Wong told a news conference. "If they choose not to do so, then they have absconded."

The deportations would be the culmination of years of waiting, agonizing and countless court rulings for the claimants in their battles to settle in Hong Kong.

Fearing an influx of millions of immigrants, both Beijing and Hong Kong have long tried to restrict the numbers of mainlanders settling in the territory. At Hong Kong's request, Beijing even overturned a ruling by Hong Kong's top court that granted broad residency rights in 1999.

Hundreds of the so-called "right of abode" claimants -- most of them children of Hong Kong residents -- staged a sit-in Monday outside immigration offices to demand a reprieve after the expiry of a midnight deadline to leave.

Others with expired visas, fearing arrest, sent relatives in their place.

"My son will not leave, he will just wait here until the situation is resolved," said one man who gave his family name as Lin. His son, now 30, stayed away from the gathering.

His sentiments echoed those of others at the sit-in, who sang songs and shouted slogans to demand their families be allowed to stay united. Some have said they would go underground to avoid being sent back to the mainland.