Top Beijing official Li Fei seeks views over foreign passport issue

Dual nationality in spotlight after Legislative Council President Andrew Leung had to give up British citizenship, with questions raised over whether it should be allowed for NPC delegates

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 11:41pm

A top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has raised the issue of the city’s delegates to national congresses holding dual nationality, and is seeking their views on whether it should be allowed.

Deputy secretary-general of the ­National People’s Congress Standing ­Committee (NPC), Li Fei, broached the subject during a seminar in Shenzhen on Thursday, according to some Hong Kong delegates to the NPC and the Chinese ­People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) who attended the meeting.

More than half of those who spoke in the meeting expressed doubts about letting people with dual citizenship hold public positions on the mainland, sources said.

It was understood that the contentious subject on Beijing’s recent interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, was only briefly mentioned at the Shenzhen seminar, despite earlier rumours about Li coming to Hong Kong to explain Beijing’s ruling that lawmakers who make a mockery of their oaths will lose their seats.

Much of the seminar was to discuss the election procedures for Hong Kong deputies to the NPC, with polls due in December next year.

Local deputies Ip Kwok-him and Ng Leung-sing, who attended the meeting, said they believed the delegates should not hold dual nationality to avoid loyalty issues.

“[Li Fei] did not express his inclination [after listening to our views], he said he will study the topic further,” Ip, a former lawmaker, said.

Ng, also a former lawmaker representing the finance sector, agreed, adding that a delegate to the NPC was the equivalent of a congressman in other countries.

“If they own another passport, it is like they are loyal to another nation,” said Ng a delegate for over a decade. He said he did not express his opinion in the meeting.

Local lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, also a deputy, said NPC and CPPCC ­delegates should be treated differently on the nationality issue.

He said he would not be surprised if the central government required NPC deputies to ditch passports of other nations as they held public positions through elections. But he argued that the nature of the CPPCC, as a political advisory body, was different so there should not be any restriction on ­nationality.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, also a deputy, said he had given up his foreign passport over a decade ago as he believed it was the right thing to do for those in such positions.

The dual nationality issue is in the spotlight after Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had to give up his British citizenship before becoming the new Legislative Council president. Leung is also a CPPCC delegate.

The dual nationality issue has always been a top topic during NPC and CPPCC conferences.

The next five-year terms of China’s top legislature and top political advisory body will start in 2018.