How To Get A Hong Kong Passport

There is a lot of confusion in our community about who is and who is not eligible for a Hong Kong SAR passport, and how to get one if you are not.

Unfortunately, readers of a recent item in the Public Eye column are not going to be any the wiser and may indeed be more muddled than before.

The SAR passport states that the nationality of the holder is Chinese. Most people born in our city are Chinese Nationals ab initio.

Those who hold another nationality, whether born here or elsewhere, can apply for Chinese nationality under the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Section 7 provides three possible routes for non-Chinese to acquire Chinese nationality. They are: close relative (not defined) of a Chinese National; long term (not defined) resident of China (not defined, but clearly including Hong Kong); other relevant circumstances.

In theory, only one strand needs to be established, but in practice the Immigration Department looks for as much evidence as possible under all three.

As it happens, when I applied in 2001 I qualified under all three, but I am aware of persons with no Chinese relatives – including persons of Indian origin -- whose applications have been successful.

The procedure is simple. There is an explanatory booklet and an application form readily available from the Immigration Department. Both are fully bilingual and the form can be completed in either of Hong Kong’s official languages.

If the case is reasonably strong, a letter will be issued stating that the application will be approved (note the lack of equivocation) but that the applicant must now produce evidence that he or she has renounced their existing nationality.

Upon production of the required evidence, the applicant will receive a Certificate of Naturalisation. Even though it is issued under a Mainland law, the certificate too is bilingual if issued in Hong Kong.

One country, two systems remember!

Armed with this Certificate, the holder must apply for an amended ID card (it will have the magic three stars, irrespective of the ethnicity of the holder) and may apply for a SAR Passport.

I have never heard of a passport application being rejected in such cases.

Incidentally, holders of the three star ID card can then get their Home Return permit from the China Travel Services office, but that is a story for another day.

Why then do we get incidents like the one recently highlighted? Simple. Invariably the persons concerned have jumped straight to the final stage of the process and applied for a SAR passport.

When they don’t get one, they complain of unfairness.

The grounds they quote in support of their grievance (born here, long term resident, speak the language better than Rowse etc) are relevant for the purposes of application for Chinese Nationality but not relevant to the application for a passport itself.

My advice for those concerned? Stop whining, get the correct information booklet and application form. Fill in the latter properly and be willing to give up your present nationality when the time comes.

Meanwhile stop pressing the racism button at the first sign of difficulty.

While we are on the subject, we sometimes hear complaints from athletes, or their parents, who wish to represent Hong Kong at the Olympics or other events of high status. The governing bodies of such events require participants to hold a passport of the place concerned.

Then you will get remarks like "why should I be forced to sacrifice my nationality and passport" to represent the place I live in.

My answer to them? If you think giving up your passport is a sacrifice, and you are not proud to become Chinese, then we don’t want you.