1. Do I have to be present in Hong Kong for 7 years continuously before I can acquire the status of permanent resident?
Most newcomers to Hong Kong (whether they are from Mainland China or elsewhere) are required to live in Hong Kong for 7 years before they can acquire the status of Hong Kong permanent resident. This does not apply to newcomers who are already Hong Kong permanent residents (for example, Chinese nationals who were born outside Hong Kong to a parent who, at the time of birth, was already a Hong Kong permanent resident).
It is not necessary to be present in Hong Kong for the entire 7 years: the law merely stipulates that the person must be "ordinarily resident " in Hong Kong for that time. Ordinary residence may continue even though the person is absent for a temporary purpose. There is no clear and concrete definition of the term "temporary purpose", but section 2(6) of the Immigration Ordinance sets out some of the factors that may be taken into account in determining whether or not a person has ceased to be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.
If Hong Kong is your home and you go abroad for a temporary purpose, then your residency is considered to continue. This means that if you go somewhere else for a holiday, for business or to study, your ordinary residence is not interrupted. You can still accumulate 7 years of residence and the right of abode, even though you were absent during part of that period for a temporary purpose.
The 7-year period must be continuous, and only includes the period for which you have lawfully been in Hong Kong. Also, you must be in Hong Kong for a settled purpose (such as for employment, education or business purposes) during the entire 7-year period. A visitor or tourist cannot claim to be an ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, as visiting is not considered to be "ordinary residence".
It follows that a person could actually be in Hong Kong for 12 years but "ordinarily resident" only for two periods each of less than 7 years, broken by a period of unlawful or temporary residence. Such a person would not be entitled to permanent residence.