Hong Kong immigration officers have rounded up 15 suspected illegal workers from mainland China allegedly paid up to double the city’s minimum wage of HK$40 (US$5) an hour to work as cleaners and dishwashers.

Deputy Commander Luk Pui-yin of the Immigration Department’s task force said four of the group arrested during a raid on a Yau Ma Tei flat on Wednesday were identified as illegal immigrants and the others entered the city as visitors but stayed beyond the permitted time.

Luk added preliminary investigations revealed that one of them had lived in the city illegally for 6½ years.

She said the workers – four men and 11 women – were detained during a dawn raid on a flat in Yau Ma Tei that investigators suspected was being used as a dormitory for illegal workers.

Officers also seized 17 bogus Hong Kong identity cards that were said by Luk to be “poor quality” and “easily distinguishable” from real ones.

“We believe the suspected illegal workers used such fake identity cards to find jobs in Hong Kong,” she said.

Immigration officers seized fake Hong Kong identity cards from the arrestees. Photo: Eugene Lee

Luk added the investigation showed those detained were paid between HK$50 and HK$80 an hour for a variety of roles, such as cleaners, dishwashers and odd-job workers.

Their salaries were higher than the city’s minimum wage, which was raised to HK$40 an hour on May 1 last year.

The department said the raided flat on Reclamation Street was about 500 sq ft and subdivided into four rooms which housed one or two bunk beds each.

“Our investigation indicated that the arrestees rented subdivided flats in the premises that was allegedly used as a dormitory for illegal workers,” Luk said.

She stressed that immigration authorities were also investigating those responsible for hiring the workers, the individual overseeing the flat and the potential involvement of a syndicate that provided “one-stop services” to them.

The team did not rule out more arrests.

Luk added that similar operations would continue to be carried out to protect the interests of city workers and maintain stability in the job market.

She warned that illegal workers faced punishment of up to two years in jail and a HK$50,000 fine.

Possession or use of a forged Hong Kong identity card carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a HK$100,000 fine.

Those found to have employed illegal workers face a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and up to 10 years in jail.