Thanks for nothing, new citizen says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2007, 12:00am

You might think a disciplined services officer would recognise a genuine Hong Kong police commendation and plaque. But when Richard Aziz Butt showed them to an immigration officer in support of his application for Chinese citizenship, he was accused of presenting fake awards and threatened with prosecution.

That would be bad enough for anyone. But for Pakistan-born Mr Butt, it not only dented his pride at being recognised as a good citizen but threatened serious harm to his livelihood. For Mr Butt is an immigration consultant who makes his money helping clients navigate the corridors of Immigration Tower.

Mr Butt applied for citizenship in November 2004. In support of his application he presented a copy of a Letter of Appreciation presented to him for helping catch a would-be pickpocket and a plaque in recognition of his help in liaising with the South Asian community. He has translated important notices into his native Urdu.

Nearly two years later, the 36-year-old was summoned to Immigration Tower and asked to produce the letter and plaque, whereupon officers told him the police force had denied presenting them to him.

Mr Butt was appalled. 'I was worried my business would be ruined if anyone found out,' he said.

He set out to prove they were genuine, and contacted Chief Inspector Neil Dunn of the Kowloon railway police, who sent a fax to Mr Butt's company saying he had traced the pickpocketing incident for which Mr Butt was given the Letter of Appreciation in 1999 but that records of the incident had been destroyed in 2004.

Mr Butt passed the information to Immigration Department investigators. A month later, he received a curt fax telling him he would not be prosecuted due to 'insufficient evidence'.

Earlier this year he became a Chinese citizen. Still, he reported his treatment to the Ombudsman, who, two weeks ago, found that while the department could have handled the matter better, there was no 'major maladministration'.

Last week Mr Butt called the department and demanded it return his treasured possessions immediately.

The department sent a fax - which included Mr Butt's office address - saying it could not 'successfully establish a way to return those items to you due to the interruption of the telephone line'. Mr Butt faxed officers to say they could always send them to his office by registered mail.

An Immigration Department spokesman said: 'We have made arrangements with Mr Butt for the return of the plaque and documents.'

Mr Butt said he had not heard what those arrangements were.