PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 March, 2009, 12:00am

Britain must resolve issue of stateless people

We refer to the report regarding the amendment to the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill to give BN(O)s an entitlement to register as British citizens ('Britain debates citizenship for BN(O) holders', March 9).

The amendment inserts British Nationals (Overseas) into section 4B of the British Nationality Act 1981. That provision to obtain full British citizenship requires applicants to hold no nationality other than British nationality. The amendment will not, as was claimed, affect the 3.5 million BN(O)s who are Chinese citizens.

The amendment would cover only BN(O)s from the ethnic minorities who are not properly catered for by the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.

In the debate, it was reiterated that Britain has made people de facto stateless and reneged on firm commitments made to them for their children to have a nationality. In February 1997, the home secretary announced that the solely British ethnic minorities would be allowed 'to apply for registration as British citizens, giving them right of abode in the United Kingdom, after 30 June 1997'. The prime minister subsequently confirmed this adding that they were potentially stateless and that they would now have a nationality.

Referring to the ethnic minorities, the present lord high chancellor and secretary of state for justice said in February 1997 that 'A BN(O) passport carries with it the right of abode nowhere. The claim that this amounts to British nationality is pure sophistry. Common sense and common humanity demand that we give these people full British citizenship.'

British law penalises BN(O)s seeking British citizenship by imposing stricter requirements on them compared to people who failed to get a BN(O) passport and became British Overseas citizens.

The amendment would remove that penalty. It will also equalise the position of BN(O) parents whose children born after the handover can acquire British citizenship but who cannot register as British citizens themselves. As Lord Hylton said during the debate, 'statelessness is a very severe disability'. Britain must set the position right and accept its nationals who are de facto stateless. In 2002 we did this for British Overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons (including those from Hong Kong). BN(O)s were excluded because they were supposedly 'adequately catered for'. However, there are BN(O)s who hold no other nationality yet cannot register for British citizenship.

Lord Avebury, Tameem A. Ebrahim, London

Already enough puppies in HK

I refer to the report ('Puppies trigger an online stampede', March 7). I wonder how many of those people [who responded online] realise that there is always an oversupply of puppies in Hong Kong urgently requiring adoption.

I also wonder how many of those adopted pups will still be in their respective homes 10 years from now? Pet ownership is a serious long-term responsibility, much like having children. It is obvious from Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department statistics on the thousands of dogs destroyed annually in its kennels alone, that neither the government nor the majority of the public actively plays its part in resolving the acute stray/abandoned dog problem which is prevalent here.

I hope dog owners reading this report will have their dogs de-sexed.

For the record, we at Protection of Animals Lantau South, currently have 14 puppies. They are all the result of indiscriminate breeding, unwanted pregnancies, poisoning and abandonment. Where are the homes for them to come from? Should we realistically just destroy them or continue to do our very best for them and pray for a happy outcome?

Jacqui Green, Protection of Animals Lantau South

Bad behaviour inexcusable

I was shocked by the behaviour of the League of Social Democrats in the Legislative Council chamber last month. I could not believe that any lawmakers would behave in that way during the delivery of the budget speech by the financial secretary.

This is not what Hongkongers want to see. It is obvious that we need a voice. We must have representatives who will reflect our opinions and test the administration.

However, no one wants to see legislators behaving in the way the league members did, disrupting a Legco meeting and treating an official with disrespect. Legislators must recognise they are answerable to the electorate.

We want lawmakers who will act in a responsible manner and reflect our needs and aspirations.

Gary Fung Kin-keung, Chai Wan

New approach is positive

Wen Jiabao has said that Beijing is willing 'to create a peace agreement' with Taiwan ('Beijing ready to talk peace with Taiwan, says premier', March 6).

It is obvious that Beijing wants to move towards 'One China' by moderate means.

There are clearly still differences between the two sides. Beijing wants the talks to be on the basis of the one-China principle while Taipei would like discussions to be based on 'equality and dignity'.

However, Mr Wen has shown he is willing to make concessions. And while he insists on talks being under the one-China policy he says the central government is ready to make 'fair and reasonable arrangements'.

This is a new approach from the premier and it shows how much Beijing wants to improve its relationship with Taiwan.

The central government now realises that it can resolve matters politically rather than by threatening Taiwan.

It realises it cannot force other parties to come to an agreement.

As a Chinese, I am very pleased to see Beijing has taken the initiative to negotiate with Taiwan in order to arrive at a peaceful solution. In this way Beijing has a better chance of achieving unity with Taiwan. I am now optimistic about future relations between the two sides.

Kenneth Chan, Sha Tin

ICAC flaws

I refer to the report ('ICAC chief regrets staff mishandling of wiretaps', March 4).

It referred to 'below-par performances by four officers . . . in wiretapping operations involving lawyer-client conversations'.

I support calls for the setting up of an independent department to examine alleged irregularities within the ICAC.

A 'dedicated group' was set up and a principal investigator was assigned 'to ensure compliance with the law'. Unfortunately, I do not believe that these measures go far enough. In order to try and prevent a repeat of such 'below-par performances', it is essential for the government to set up an independent body.

If such an organisation did exist ICAC investigators would be less likely to make mistakes. A detailed report of this incident should be made public, so we know exactly what happened.

Irene Lee, Sha Tin

Rehab plea

There has been a rise in the number of teenage drug addicts in Hong Kong. The government should be increasing the punishment for drug-related crime.

But it also has to provide more help to young people who have become hooked on drugs, with rehabilitation programmes to help them get clean.

Lee Kiu-tung, Sha Tin