Red tape may tie vice-minister to Canada for up to 12 months

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2008, 12:00am

Greg So Kam-leung might have made a painful decision to sever ties with Canada, but his link to the country in which he lived for two decades could last a little longer because the process by which Canadian nationality is renounced could take up to 12 months.

However, he said one good spin-off from the public outcry over his appointment as a deputy minister while still holding Canadian citizenship was an increase in his public profile.

'Even my wife has noticed I have recently had much greater exposure. In my neighbourhood, when people see me lately, more people come and greet me by name,' he said.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr So appeared in an immaculate suit with a blue tie after maintaining silence for the past eight days. But he tried to dispel assumptions that his silence was an attempt to cover up his citizenship.

'My Canadian citizenship was never a secret or information which I withheld,' he said.

'My Canadian citizenship was voluntarily disclosed to all the organisations in which I was involved. There was at no time any question of withholding information.'

As if to emphasise his point, he twice raised his arms and indicated the 'quote' sign when he denied he was 'exposed' as the possessor of a Canadian passport.

He hinted that it was journalists who had created the controversy after he 'voluntarily' told them about his nationality during a 'casual chat'.

A government source said it was unfortunate that the row, originally seen as a non-issue by officials, had been seized upon by politicians as ammunition for an attack.

But despite saying his life in Canada - where he studied, and met and married his 'lovely wife' - would 'continue to be a significant part of me', Mr So will hold on to his Canadian citizenship for a while as the process for renunciation can take up to a year.

Lawmaker Albert Cheng King-hon, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2004 to run in the Legislative Council election, said the usual time frame for completion of the process was between six and 12 months.

'I was only able to fast-track my application because I was on a deadline to announce standing for Legco. It took me 14 days. I don't think the Canadian government would consider Greg So's case as urgent,' Mr Cheng said.

He said Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang took 10 days to fast-track his application to renounce Canadian citizenship when he was appointed a minister in 2002.