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Hong Kong Bishop defends children's right to education

Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen has mobilised Catholic schools in Hong Kong to defend the right of education for some 170 children being denied an education while awaiting the outcome of their residency applications.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has allowed the children to stay in Hong Kong while their right of abode applications are being processed, but at the same time denied their education.

"I can't understand why these children are banned from long as they stay here, they should be allowed to go to school." Bishop Zen, a Salesian, told the Rome based missionary agency Fides.

Earlier this month, he wrote to all 322 Catholic schools in Hong Kong asking them to place the children and offer them appropriate education service.

The Bishop said that he will visit the Chief Executive of the SAR Government with these children if it is necessary, "so that the world may know that Hong Kong is a place of charity and justice".

Some of the children have lived in Hong Kong for several years, born in Hong Kong to illegal mainland immigrants who arrived during the Cultural revolution. The Government said that lifting the ban on the children, who are over-stayers or illegal immigrants, may send a wrong message that the Government has changed its stance on immigration offenders.

Since admitting the children may violate the education regulations, Bishop Zen said the Church would resort to civil disobedience, as a last option, if the Government insisted on its position. He argued that it is the responsibility of the Government to provide children with suitable schooling.