Hong Kong has several laws that prohibit discrimination based on race. And yet the Hong Kong government itself discriminates based on race. I’m thinking of immigration. I have permanent resident status in Hong Kong, unconditional right of abode, and that was relatively easy to get. But what if I wanted a Hong Kong passport? It turns out that the rules are different depending on the color of your skin. In all fairness I suppose one must mention that this is due to laws laid down by China and not by Hong Kong itself. But that leads to a conundrum – of some sectors being immune from laws that should apply equally across the board.
If you want to apply for a Hong Kong passport, you are in essence applying for Chinese nationality. One is applying for a Hong Kong passport and not a China passport, yet the same rules apply to Hong Kong as they do for the rest of China. (Don’t leave comments about Hong Kong being part of China. Of course I know that. Duh. And yet there is a separate passport. Duh.)
Here’s a key gotcha:
… a person whose application for naturalisation as a Chinese national has been approved shall not retain foreign nationality.
Here are the factors they look at:
Each application for naturalisation as a Chinese national will be considered on its own merits but consideration will be given to:
- whether you have a near relative who is a Chinese national with the right of abode in Hong Kong
- whether you have the right of abode in Hong Kong
- whether your habitual residence is in Hong Kong
- whether the principal members of your family (spouse and minor children) are in Hong Kong
- whether you have a reasonable income to support yourself and your family
- whether you have paid taxes in accordance with the law
- whether you are of good character and sound mind
- whether you have sufficient knowledge of the Chinese language
- whether you intend to continue to live in Hong Kong in case your naturalisation application is approved
- whether there are other legitimate reasons to support your application
Because … and here’s the thing ….
A “Chinese citizen” is a person of Chinese nationality under the CNL. Hong Kong residents who are of Chinese descent and were born in the Chinese territories (including Hong Kong), or persons who satisfy the criteria laid down in the CNL as having Chinese nationality, are Chinese nationals.
So none of the above applies if you are ethnic Chinese.
Chinese nationals of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region with right of abode in foreign countries may, for the purpose of travelling to other countries and territories, use the relevant documents issued by the foreign governments. However, they will not be entitled to consular protection in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and other parts of the People’s Republic of China on account of their holding the above mentioned documents.
None of this evaluation nonsense and, more importantly, ethnic Chinese are allowed to have dual citizenship, non-Chinese are not. How is that legal? How is that fair?
Here’s the result (from today’s SCMP):
A businessman of Indian descent has been unable to gain Chinese nationality or a local passport even though his family came to the city nearly a century ago.
Furthermore, Philip Khan, 50, was born and raised in Hong Kong, and his late uncle fought against the Japanese in the second world war.
The businessman found himself caught in an identity crisis when he tried to run in the upcoming Legislative Council election and was told he was ineligible because he was not a Chinese national.
Khan, who speaks fluent Cantonese and has a trading business on the mainland, said the Legco ordinance went against the city’s Basic Law, which protected the rights of permanent residents to stand for elections.
In April, he tried twice to apply for Chinese nationality so that he could run for office. But immigration officers dissuaded him from even filing the applications, citing mainland nationality laws that require at least one of his parents to be a Chinese national, Khan said.
In June, Khan voluntarily took an oath before the immigration officers that he would renounce his Pakistani passport so that he could apply for an Hong Kong passport.
However, he later received a letter that said he had to prove he was a Chinese national.
To be sure, foreigners have been successfully naturalised in Hong Kong, including Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman and district councillor Paul Zimmerman.
The Immigration Department says foreigners or stateless people can apply for naturalisation if they have relatives who are Chinese nationals, they had settled on the mainland, or have other legitimate reasons. Applications would be considered individually based on their merit, it said.
So, if you want to apply for citizenship and you’re not Chinese, better be white and rich and prepared to renounce the country of your birth.
I’ve thought about getting a HK passport. After all, this is my home and I have no intention of living in the US again. Hong Kong is my habitual residence. I have paid my taxes and I have enough money to support myself. On the other hand, my Cantonese and Mandarin are both border-line to varying degrees and some might question the bit about “good character and sound mind” but, come on, you know.
I did mention this to my mom and told her the requirements. ”You’d give up your US citizenship?” she asked. ”I’d have no choice, that’s a requirement.” ”But just think about what your grandparents went through to get it.” Which did and has given me a reason to hold off, at least for now.
I don’t expect this to change, at least not within my lifetime. I’m just sayin’ ….