Protection move on SAR passports

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 1996, 12:00am

Chinese embassies will not hold stocks of blank Special Administrative Region passports for issuing to travellers who lose or have them stolen.

They will have to wait for a replacement passport complete with photograph and personal details sent by courier from the Hong Kong Immigration Department or apply for an emergency travel document which will allow them to return to the territory.

In contrast, British embassies hold blank Hong Kong travel documents to issue to residents in trouble abroad.

Representatives of Western nations in Hong Kong say blank passports would be best kept out of mainland officials' hands.

Diplomats have expressed fears corrupt officials would steal the uncompleted documents and sell them to alien smuggling rings.

As nations consider the acceptability of the passport, diplomats have emphasised its integrity needs to be protected.

They say keeping the responsibility for putting personal details on the documents with the Hong Kong Immigration Department also demonstrates the working of the 'one country, two systems' concept.

Fears have been raised that mainland Chinese officials might seek to acquire the SAR document, which is only for Hong Kong Chinese, for the greater ease of travel it is expected to provide than PRC passports.

While the British National (Overseas) passport provides visa-free access to about 80 nations, only three have indicated they will extend the privilege to SAR passport holders. They are Britain, Singapore and Western Samoa.

Canada has given in-principle agreement but wants to negotiate an agreement with Hong Kong allowing illegal immigrants to be returned.

The Security Branch has indicated it has no objection to reaching an agreement.