Adopted daughter left stateless thanks to inefficient bureaucrats

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 3:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 3:08am

I am a Canadian who has lived in Hong Kong for 16 years. After a wait of years, I recently adopted an eight-year-old girl through the Adoption Unit of the Social Welfare Department.

Although she looks Chinese, speaks Chinese and attends a local school, she is in fact from an ethnic minority, and therefore stateless. Her vulnerable status was forcefully brought home to me when earlier this month she was refused a visitor visa to Canada on the grounds that she would overstay. I and those who know me were struck by the absurdity of the situation.

I have no reason to return to live in Canada at this time, having a good job here and a position of responsibility. I do not intend to take her and stay there, or to dump her on the other side of the world and leave without her.

The fact is, I adamantly do not want her to attend school in Canada at this time. My spoken Cantonese is poor and my written is negligible - a failing for which I take full responsibility. It was with this in mind that I placed her in a local primary school, although this came at a great cost to me.

One small example is the 165 parents' notices written in Chinese (though entirely justified on the part of the school). I want her to retain her language and her culture. She sees herself as Chinese, even though the powers that be do not.

She is trapped between the inefficient bureaucracy of the Canadian citizenship application process and the inflexibility of the Chinese government's definition of citizenship.

It has taken the Canadian government more than seven months to look at copies of my birth certificate and passport and to then confirm that I am indeed Canadian. I have not been allowed to apply for citizenship for her until this step was processed. The next step will take two years or more, according to the Canadian government website. On the other hand, the Hong Kong government will not issue her a passport, although she was born here, because her birth mother was not ethnically Chinese.

But what happens to her if something happens to me? The only family she has, she is not allowed to see. The sorry fact is that she has no rights at all, and while Canada and China work to keep out undesirables, they sometimes neglect the small picture.

Tara Gaughan, Tai Wai