The government has been urged to give priority to people who need to attend to urgent personal matters and family business when quarantine-free travel resumes with the mainland, and set up a merit points system to decide who gets to go first.
The Society for Community Organisation (Soco) made the call just days after Chief Executive Carrie Lam said a quota system would be introduced, with businesspeople first in the queue.
But Soco said the arrangement would be unfair to the grassroots, especially people who wish to visit sick relatives, attend funeral or have to attend to urgent personal matters on the mainland.
The group said around 100,000 Hong Kong people travelled between the SAR and the mainland every day before the pandemic, but many families have been separated for two years due to quarantine restrictions.
A woman surnamed Law, who’s a single parent, told a press conference that she wanted to go to the mainland to attend her grandpa's funeral with her six-year-old daughter.
“My daughter is now attending kindergarten. It would be impossible for us to go back if we have to be quarantined. She would have to take leave from school. It would affect us a lot. If we were to go to the mainland with no quarantine exemptions, the money we'd have to spend would be quite a burden for us,” she said.
A Ms Chan said she wanted to bring her teenage daughter with autistic disorder to visit the girl’s grandparents and other relatives on the mainland, saying they used to go several times a year and the environment there always helped improve her condition.
“She was brought up by her grandparents, and her cousins there used to play with her. The home in the mainland is bigger. Her condition would be much better if more people could talk to and play with her,” Chan said.
Chan added her parents' health conditions are also worrying.
"My mom is suffering from a stroke, and her lungs are not doing well. She is on oxygen support 24 hours a day. My father has had a knee surgery. So they always wanted me to visit them. They only have one daughter and that's me," she said.
Soco’s deputy director, Sze Lai-shan, said the government should allocate at least half of the quota to people with urgent personal matters when the border reopens.
“I think it’s inhumane and unfair for those family who are in need [to be] excluded from the cross-border quota,” Sze said.
“We think at the beginning 30 percent of the quota can go to urgent matters, and 20 percent go to family visits, so it’d be better for these families. And then after certain period, you can raise the quota once the urgent cases are cleared,” she said.
She added that authorities could consider setting up a point-based system for allocating the quota, with higher scores to be given to more urgent cases and those who have waited for a longer time.