HONG KONG — People with one parent from Hong Kong have the right to live in the territory and do not need permission from mainland China to do so, Hong Kong's highest court ruled Friday in a landmark immigration case.
The territory's Court of Final Appeal said Beijing was violating the constitutional rights of emigrants with Hong Kong ancestry by insisting on its own screening process. China requires people to gain exit permits before they move out.
It was the first time that any Hong Kong authority had challenged the legality of mainland laws or policies since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997, said Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
It remains unclear how China and the territory will resolve their conflicting laws.
Hong Kong has approved the applications of 13,000 people still waiting for China's permission to leave the mainland.
Friday's decision came as a relief for about 1,000 children who were smuggled into Hong Kong before the 1997 hand-over.
The ruling will also open the door for hundreds of thousands of people in China who have one parent from Hong Kong but must apply for clearance from the Hong Kong government to move here.