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  • Aug 20, 2014
  • Updated: 10:26pm
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IDENTITY

Hong Kong-born adoptee wins fight for Chinese nationality

Maggie Cheung was born and raised in Hong Kong but until she applied for a passport she had no idea she wasn't actually Chinese

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 2:18pm

Maggie Cheung was born in Hong Kong, her parents are Hongkongers, she speaks perfect Cantonese, holds a Hong Kong identity card and a Chinese home return permit, but it took media pressure for the government to grant her Chinese nationality.

After filing her application a year ago, the Immigration Department finally approved her application to become a Chinese national on Friday, following questions raised by the Sunday Morning Post over the case.

Cheung was born to a Pakistani woman in Hong Kong 24 years ago, but her mother abandoned her. She was fostered by a Chinese family when she was three months old and was legally adopted by the same family when she was three.

The young woman studied at a local school and then progressed to Chinese University where she studied for a bachelor's degree in physical education and sports science.

Two years ago she had a chance to take part in an exchange programme in Britain, so she went to apply for a passport.

She was shocked to be told she was not a naturalised Chinese and was only given a document of identity for visa purposes, in which the section concerning her nationality was left blank, indicating she was stateless.

"I really struggled psychologically when I found out that while I recognise myself as a Hongkonger, the law does not," she recalled. She regards herself as a Hong Kong citizen and her identity card carries three stars - indicating her permanent residency.

After being given the document of identity she tried to apply for naturalisation but was told her chances were slim as she did not have a stable income. Cheung, who now teaches liberal studies in a secondary school in Tseung Kwan O, formally filed an application last year after she became a teacher.

On Friday that application was approved.

"I am really disappointed," she said.

"So the government actually works that way - it approves an application when [the] media file inquiries. It is not credible at all and the system is very problematic."

She has yet to receive a written notice of the approval.

According to the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, to which Hong Kong is a signatory, contracting states "shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of stateless persons".

Law Yuk-kai, director of independent rights organisation Human Rights Monitor, said the government had an international obligation to solve Cheung's nationality issue when she was legally recognised as an adopted child - following the nationality of her adoptive parents according to international practice.

"She has a home return permit, meaning even the Chinese government recognised her as a Chinese national, or else how can she return 'home' [to the mainland]?" he said.

Foreigners or stateless persons holding Hong Kong permanent residency can only apply for the home return permit when they have been naturalised, according to the website of the China Travel Service, which issued the permits.

Barrister and former lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, now a member of the non-government organisation Hong Kong Unison, agreed, saying Chinese law states that adopted children should be treated the same as one's own children and should be given Chinese nationality if their parents are Chinese.

Cheung is the fourth person with an ethnic minority background reported by the Post as having had trouble with their naturalisation applications.

However, Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman, district councillor Paul Zimmerman and former director general of InvestHK Michael Rowse were all successfully naturalised.

"It would not cost the director of immigration anything to write an open statement once again to reassure everybody that 'we do apply the rule consistently and actually there is no racial bias'," said Equal Opportunities Commission chairperson Lam Woon-kwong.

He added that matters concerning immigration were exempted under the racial discrimination ordinance.

Fermi Wong Wai-fun, executive director of Hong Kong Unison, which helps ethnic minorities, said she would write to Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok this week with about 10 similar cases and if he failed to give a positive response, she would launch a judicial review against the naturalisation system.

An Immigration Department spokesman refused to comment on individual cases.

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yck222
Miss Cheung seems much more of a real HK citizen than the other opportunists mentioned.
daikerdy
Labor market/department,HK courts,immigration,hospitals,the biggest discriminator HK police, HK banks, what you can name full full of discrimination towards ethnic minorities.Discrimination is in most HK Chinese blood.
Look at police. My husband (Punjab origin) and I got argument HK police (so called Asia’s finest) came and immediately hand cuff my husband without asking what had happen. Hand cuffs him that way my husband was yelling by pain. Abuse bad words to my husband, push him,terrorize him just upon arriving without know the detail facts.
And then started to teach me how to tell lies in the statement. Also keep writing untruth thing in so called my statement.When I ask why they doing this I was told by officers we have to protect our own (by their meaning Chinese) people. It was shocking to me.is this HK? Cross border I have not seen such darkness. Unless you crumble with them for ideology.
My husband sue a furniture company in small claim tribunal in wan chai court staff was very aggressive towards my husband since he request for a Punjabi interpreter. At some occasions angry at him why he is not talking Cantonese. Teaching very briefly to the Chinese defendant how she can OVER COME my husband’s claim it was look like court staff was defendant’s personal lawyers.
If judiciary or tst police station have any opposition to my comments here I will disclose case numbers here any one is welcome to contact me.
Its small thing called HK GOV discriminating non-Chinese
jackblack323
Ms Cheung has stated that she loves Hong Kong and wants to live here. This is the only home, language and culture she has ever known. She works in the HK school system and is a productive member of HK society.
Of COURSE she should be given an HKSAR passport and all the rights of any HK citizen. Her ethnicity is not any sort of problem for Ms Cheung. Whether it's a problem for HK Immigration, or Hong Kong people, well...that's not her problem either.
Congratulations to Cheung for receiving what she is entitled to, and thanks the SCMP for publishing the story. Let's hope HK Immigration continues to provide productive members of our society with their entitlements. Let them live in the place they call home, work here and pay taxes here. It is their right, and we are privileged to have them.
whymak
I am glad I started this racism awareness about Hong Kongers, for whom we should be ashamed. Generally, I find mainlanders less racist than we are. Thank heavens we never engaged in slave trade and gunboat terrorism.
I was so pleasantly surprised once by a Uigur cashier at a New Jersey Turkish restaurant. She spoke Putonghua with me and showed much nostalgia for her homeland -- China in general and Urumqi in particular. It was then I realized more than ever China should work even harder to promote racial harmony than just spending more renminbi on economic development.
My wife and I were sponsors of a Filipina at her wedding to a white American. We are God-parents to her first born. If I had her for a daughter, I would be both happy and proud.
I have many Indian scientist and mathematician friends who could easily put those pidgin English speaking Hong Kong racist illiterates to shame. Need I say more?
Some readers of this SCMP column are quite correct in their observation. If these dark-skinned South Asians have money, the yellow racists will lick their a**es gladly.
That said, Hong Kong is still the city of my dreams.
sudouest
If she as a person from Urumqi, a descendant of the travellers of the _ancient Silk Route_ can have so much understanding and love for her homeland, why is HK, so-called civilised in a _"Western manner"_ be so inferior to other people ? Cmon guys !!
The Chinese central government is trying hard to promote racial harmony, but given the 1/4 world population she has to govern, with diverse races from the Manchus to the Dai people, I admire how much progress has been made in the midst of the economic crisis in the Europe, US and Japan and the forever tensions in China internally and with others externally.
I think we should give them the credit.
Economic development is a strong card that China can play to lift herself and the people to the world stage once again. I don't think they would stop that.
wwong888
yes! all hail the glorious communist party! all hail harmonious society and scientific development!
johan.larsson.75
I dont really know the case, but personaly from South asia we feel a bit racism from East asian people. I traveled to hongkong singapore, thailand , but everyone lick the white mans **** and treath us as second class tourists or something like that...when it comes to give a good table in restaurants and such things " i really dont know why" ..its not like that chinese people are historicaly superior to the indian races..(which are many) including aryans, persians, afgans,tamils , pakis and Singhalese (sri lankans) they who exported buddism to YOU ...more ..in culture and language .or history.which is used all over the world.....We gave so much culture to the chinese people, ..The latest statestic of indo chinese orgin people in India is 200 000 living and probl have also indian passport. And add around +200 million indians who have "east asian look" small eyes sha is mayority population in Asam (thai ancestors,t hey look like thai or cambodians) , North india/afganistan , South india kerala .have millions of chinese/mongolian ancestors .. I have been to Hongkong and i feel that its for sure racism towards us. Its really baseless cos Chinese people wants to be like "europeans" Indo-Aryan look (yes white people are indians racialy).
We lost Tibet to you which is a sad war but its our lands and culture. And what i heard from a chinese girl...they hate us more cos they think all "light skinned indians" are muslims...i dont know where they have got that from.
sudouest
Sorry to hear ur experiences here. I'm actually curious to know what the non-HK Chinese thinks. I'm not from Mainland... Have u been there ?
Camel
True, there is a general sentiment against Indians (and "Pakis") in Hongkong. But imho it has nothing to do with the cultural background but more with the skin, behavior and the "smell". I have heard from many if talking about Indians, that they smell bad and even worse when it is hot. So the HKnese do not like to stick around with them. Then they say, that the skin of an Indian looks dirty and their behavior is much agressive. Stereotypes and prejudices I would say or racism in the best form. But for the smell, I agree but In my opinion this can be easily solve if they take regularly a shower and use deodorants and eat less mutton as from mutton consumption you smell. All in all, I can call alot Indians as my friends and have no problems with them. But generally, there are a lot of racism in Hongkong. HKnese do not like Philipinos and only regard them as domestic helper (even the expat ones) and all other people with "dark skin" or from poor countries. But, white people the HKners like. They want to be like them and very much like to kiss their a..ses. Pathetic but that is what the HKners are.
yck222
What an appallingly racist comment. Your need mental deodorant-- your attitudes stink.

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