Canadian father sues government over denial of Hong Kong passport to Canada-born son

Timothy Loh and son Hudson Timothy George Loh, 11, argue that the latter should be qualified for a passport due to their Chinese heritage and close ties with the city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:46pm

A Canadian father of Chinese descent is suing the government for not granting his Canada-born son a Hong Kong passport on the grounds the boy is not a Chinese national.

Timothy Loh and his son Hudson Timothy George Loh argued through their lawyers yesterday at the High Court that the 11 year old should be qualified for a passport due to their Chinese heritage and close ties with the city.

But legal representatives for the director of immigration and passports appeal board countered that their claims were bending the law.

They suggested the matter would be better resolved if the son were to be naturalised as a citizen.

But presiding judge Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming said one of the possible consequences of that could be his son losing consulate protection by Canada even if he was still allowed to use his Canadian passport.

“He is not prepared to concede it to this extent,” barrister Hectar Pun Hei said, for the Lohs.

The father and son lodged the judicial review last year after the authorities refused to grant the passport to the boy born in Canada after his Canadian parents fled there to escape the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the city more than a decade ago.

The Lohs then returned and gave birth to two more children, who had no trouble obtaining the passports, according to a writ filed earlier.

To obtain a Hong Kong passport, an applicant is required to be a Chinese citizen as well as a Hong Kong resident.

In rejecting the boy’s application, the Immigration Department said the boy was not a Chinese citizen because both his father, a lawyer, and mother are Canadian and he was not born in the city.

But the Lohs asked the court to declare the authorities had erred and order them to reconsider their decision.

Yesterday, Pun argued that because the two had connections to the city and were of Chinese descent, they should be regarded as “Hong Kong Chinese compatriots”.

All Hong Kong Chinese compatriots could be considered Chinese citizens, according to a Beijing interpretation of the application of the country’s nationality law in the city, Pun said.

Article 5 of the nationality law says “any person born abroad whose parents are both Chinese nationals or one of whose parents is a Chinese national shall have Chinese nationality”.

The judge challenged Pun on why the drafters of the law had not used a more straightforward term such as “parents of Chinese descent” rather than “Chinese national” if what Pun argued was the legislative intent.

Barrister Jonny Mok Shiu-luen challenged Pun’s interpretation of the concerned provisions, but said Beijing’s interpretation did give rise to a window for the boy to be naturalised.

“They probably will have a strong case,” Mok said, on the Lohs taking such a route.

The judge reserved his decision to be handed down on a later day.