• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 7:44pm
NewsHong Kong

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.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Miss Cheung seems much more of a real HK citizen than the other opportunists mentioned.
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
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.
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.
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.
yes! all hail the glorious communist party! all hail harmonious society and scientific development!
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.
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 ?
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.
What an appallingly racist comment. Your need mental deodorant-- your attitudes stink.
Camel - Congrats. You have penned the most racist comment I have ever seen here. Smell bad? Are for real? Taking a shower more often? Eating less mutton? Did you share these suggestions with your Indian friends? How did they react. You are a Class A Moron.
In make sence. Yes stereo typing that everyone smells? and skin color? .lol , of cos most of the indians and pakistanis that are in hongkong today are working class. I dont think working class chinese/hongkoners going buying Gucci parfoume ether. And it might be with hot food people automaticly smells I dont know but its an old thing about Indians smells. However when i think about it ...We also have prejudicens against mongolid/chinese people.... That they all have small dix, they mostly are gay, and they cant get white woman in bed. So it maybee makes up for it ? Honestly its not good for Hongkong people to go around and dream of to be "white" chinese people have different face and body structure . But i heard alot of pakistani plastic doctors making a killing of operation on smal eyes, and noses in HK. Sad ...that you guys cant be proud of your race ...70 years ago hitler did not even consider mongolid races as humans. And today 2012 honkongers love white people, amazing.
Geeze, it is a right and morally the only right way for the adoptee be allowed the same rights as her adopting parents. To do otherwise is not right and morally wrong.
I suggest that people intereated in this case setup a google alert so they can track what happens.
Naturalization to become a Chinese national normally takes the immigration department one year to process. For example it took Paul Zimmerman about one year to naturalize. So I am not sure exactly what the problem here is. I do not think the media had influenced the immigration department at all in this case. Maggie was going to be successfully naturalized regardless of what the media reported. It's simply the media creating drama and patting itself on the back.
If the immigration department were to reject Maggie, it would have resulted in a very embarrassing judicial intervention against the immigration department because the law is clearly on Maggie's side.
That is the problem, she was not requesting naturalization. She applied for a passport as a Chinese citizen as defined by the nationality law.
Yes good point. She was after all issued a home return permit.
Damn glad she fought and won the rights that she's entitled to. There is still an inherent racism within the Hong Kong approach to citizenship. I myself was born in Hong Kong yet because of my Caucasian status and Western parents I do not share the same rights as a Chinese Hong Konger or even that of a Chinese person born in Vancouver. There are government roles I may not fill and barriers in place to stop me getting identification I might want.
What is absent from this story is that if she was born in Hong Kong and became stateless after the handover, she clearly qualified for UK nationality under the 2009 Immigration Act that gave all stateless HK residents full British Nationality. To be honest, that would have probably been the better option for her as she has studied abroad and probably intends to go there in the future again. I am surprised she was not told this.
Maybe she is afraid of the racism in the UK where an indian (or pakistan ?) student was killed last year by a stranger with no cause. Maybe she just wants to be a chinese.
I am sure you are correct…..then again, everybody in Hong Kong wants to be Chinese.
Well if you want the truth, go and ask her or even everybody in HK.
likingming >>>where you come from ? what is the mean of "may be she wants to be chinese"? can you explain?
she already has document from mainland china recognize her as chinese national.
she dont dont want to be chinese she ask her right from racist department which is her legal right hong kong passport.
you want to tell that to get HKSAR passport one should be only chinese race ?
she not ask to change her skin or face as you said "she wants to be chinese"
can you tell the incident where they 1st check the passport and kill students?
it seems you have some concern if she get sar passport is it?
chanhkg>>>what is the mean of "may be she wants to be chinese"? can you explain?
well you have your definitions already.
any sar govt official come out to say sorry not even sorry just to comment or give little words that its not good action by hk immigration TO be MAFIA for a CHINESE national by keep pending her passport application for over one year why ?
what their plan? slow slow kick off all the non chinese people ?
what SAR want ? any system to ask them ?
You have got to be kidding….do you think the SAR government has the final say on Chinese nationality? You do not think there is somewhere else in the Mainland that says who can and cannot be a Chinese national, especially if they were not born Chinese? The lapse was probability due to the SAR government waiting for a response from the Mainland government. The return permit is inconsequential if she is not a Chinese citizen. Don't be so naive.
She got a Home-Return permit, which the Mainland government only hands out to Permanent Residents who are Chinese citizens. The HKSAR government didn't have to wait for the Mainland counterpart, since they already recognized her as Chinese citizen.
I guess there is at least a hint of racism here. Non "real" Chinese are not on the same level. How many "foreigners" have ever become Chinese nationals? Bit the same like in Japan.
It is very apparent that there is something not right in this sector of the Hong KongnGovernment system. Time to evaluate?
As long as the Gov't is exempt from being bound by discrimination laws then these problems will continue to happen. They should have learnt by now that there is more to being Chinese than just appearance and ethnic background. chanhkg is right when he cites the cases of Zemen, Zimmerman and Rouse, there is one law for the rich and powerful and one law for everyone else. Although I'm not sure we will find that law written down anywhere.
The fact that it needs media attention to grant her her citizenship disgusts me.
And this city dares to think of itself as an international city, when it treats the ethic minority so poorly, even when the law is on their side.
Let's not even start with the local GBLT folks, that aren't really granted equal rights.
I must say that the only reason and explaination that the immigration did take so long to process her application (and probably reject it) is racism towards her. What does she needs more to get naturalized? She was born in HK. Got adopted by Hongkongers with Chinese nationality. Hack, even China regard her as Chinese National as she has a Home-Return Card. She is Hongkong Chinese in every aspect except her looking and that may be the only the reason those immigrant officers stall and delay the approval. They might have used all the time to check every single detail to find flaws in her application to get her revoked. As a HK-Chinese I feel ashamed.
you should be ashamed for your repeated racist comments. camel the taliban.
you should mainly be ashamed as you are a racist ****
"She regards herself as a Hong Kong citizen and her identity card carries three stars - indicating her permanent residency."
Meaning of the symbols on the HKID Card: ****www.immd.gov.hk/pdforms/rop133.pdf
Three stars does not indicate permanent residency, but it does indicate being eligible for a HK SAR Re-entry permit and being over 18. I have PR, but not three stars, as I was not born in HK. My kids have stars as they were born in HK.
"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." >>>>>how many people can reach SCMP and how many really can get support from SCMP to ask this Mafia immigration that how you keep pending this application for a year and now suddenly you approve ? is hk immigration is under some law or they are just mafia no one can ask them ? every time explanation no comments on indivual cases becuase they dont feel shame.people pay tax people contribute to sarby different way since years and years.what SAR is doing to them
""""However, Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman, district councillor Paul Zimmerman and former director general of InvestHK Michael Rowse were all successfully naturalised"""THESE NAMES YOU MENTIONED YOU THINK IMMIGARTION HAS POWER TO REFUSE THEIR PASSPORTS ? EVEN NOT DARE TO THINK TO REFUSE.
this was maggie cheung she got lucky that SCMP help her with these so strong relations/daughter of chinese and documents immigration keep her application pending more than a year what about other people?
This case explains at least in part why the govt has been slow to adopt an equal opportunity/anti-discrimination law. Govt wants to be able to maintain 2 classes of citizens: ethnic Chinese and everyone else. Just look at the leadership in govt: where are the ethnic minorities born and raised here who call HK home? In Hong Kong, some people (Chinese) are more equal than others and it is a sad fact of life for an otherwise international city.
this is SAR moooooost Racist place ? not ?even years and years living here still why these so called immigration hesitate to approve passport what is that?any criteria any system in this SAR ? why keep people waiting years and years why? its not corruption to indirectly force people to consult high cost solicitors for judicial review why need judicial review?if one fullfil the requirement why it was refused before and now approved for ms maggie? what a shame shame and shame to to u so called hk immigration do u have face to comment?thats why u said no comments
Is it racism that's preventing us from streamling the naturalization process to people like Ms. Maggie Cheung? With our low birth rate, Hong Kong should welcome with open arms productive young citizens like her with open arms into our one country two systems.
Welcome only if Chinese and approved by the mainland government……this is the sad fact.


SCMP.com Account