A Chinese millionaire couple who divorced and entered into marriages of convenience to gain residence have won a 15-year battle to stay in New Zealand.
The immigration and protection tribunal, in a decision made in March, said Jinqing Hu and Guifeng Li's "wholly blameworthy" behaviour was outweighed by the hardship their four children would face if they were deported.
They were last told to prepare to return to China two years ago after a temporary reprieve from deportation for their eldest daughter to finish school. She has since enrolled at university.
The couple told the tribunal they would leave their 14-year-old son, a New Zealand citizen, in state care or find other accommodation for him if they were deported.
He was born in 2003, four months after they arrived in New Zealand.
The couple had claimed their marriage broke down a month after they arrived, and that they had started new relationships with New Zealand residents.
They obtained work visas and lodged residence applications based on the fake partnerships, withdrawing them in 2007 and later admitting their divorce and marriages were contrived in order to gain residence.
In hearing an appeal against their second deportation notice, and after a failed bid by the couple for a judicial review and to have a Court of Appeal hearing, the tribunal has ruled in their favour, noting decisions were difficult when they involved "parents who have clearly flouted New Zealand's immigration laws and also their blameless children".
The couple told the tribunal about the education, social and health costs they would face if they were deported.
They said they did not know how much they would be fined for breaching the one-child policy or "how many horrors [they] will endure".
The tribunal noted the couple recorded the net value of their assets for Immigration New Zealand two years ago at more than $3,500,000 with annual rental and business income of $246,000.
"ounsel's submissions as to the family's impoverishment in China are made in the face of the couple owning eight rental properties in Auckland," it said.
"The Tribunal rejects the submissions that Mr Hu and Ms Li would be unable to financially provide for their children in China, and treats their claim that they would leave [their son] in New Zealand in state care with some circumspection.
"Nonetheless, the Tribunal readily accepts that going to live in China after spending their lives in New Zealand would be an enormous challenge to the four children and a wrench from their current lifestyle, education, environment, and friends."
The couple told the tribunal they admitted their deception after converting to Christianity, but said their children - aged 19, 14, 12 and nine - were innocent and should not be punished by deportation or separation from their parents.
"This has been brought about, ultimately, by Mr Hu and Ms Li's dishonest representations to Immigration New Zealand that they were married to New Zealand residents, followed by their resistance to any suggestion they should leave this country," the tribunal ruled.
"They have persisted in staying here despite innumerable warnings over a period of more than 12 years that they did not have the status to do so, and that they could not expect to stay permanently.
"In the Tribunal's letter to the appellants, it asked Mr Hu and Ms Li what responsibility they considered they had for their actions, as far as any potentially negative impact on their children and their futures was concerned.
"In response, they stated that they came in 2003 to escape the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, and did not wish to return with their, at that stage, two children.
"They explained that they were told by an immigration consultant, to whom they paid a large sum of money, that the only way they could obtain residence was through marriages of convenience.
"They say that the 'terrible fact' was that, because of their 'stupid decision" to enter into these marriages, they were "forced to submit fraudulent evidence to Immigration New Zealand again and again, causing unforgivable consequences'.
"They said they were 'anxious, confused and disoriented until March 2006' when they were baptised into Christianity."
Read the full decision here.