The Immigration Department has a long-standing scheme allowing foreigners to become Chinese nationals. This paper reported what is known to be the first batch of approvals for two Indians in Hong Kong in 2002. Since then there have been more high-profile cases, including retired civil servant Mike Rowse, businessman Allan Zeman and, most recently, district councillor Paul Zimmerman. Although each applicant has his own reasons for becoming a Chinese national, the gradual increase in the annual applications to around 1,200 in recent years is generally seen as a sign of confidence in the "one country, two systems" policy.
Regrettably, the scheme appears to remain opaque and inconsistent over the past decade, with decisions being erratic and even discriminatory sometimes. Recently, a Pakistani woman who arrived 30 years ago and is now divorced was turned away. Another Hong Kong-born Pakistani, who speaks fluent Chinese, said the department had discouraged him from filing an application, citing the requirement that at least one parent be a Chinese national. The two applicants apparently meet some of the factors that the department is prepared to take into account, such as whether Hong Kong is their habitual residence.
The Chinese Nationality Law Article 7 does not limit naturalisation to those who have settled in China or have near relatives who are Chinese. Approval is also given to those who have "other legitimate reasons". Since the handover, more than 15,000 people have become Chinese nationals. We appreciate that every application has its own circumstances. But questions have to be asked about why immigration officials seem to have routinely dissuaded applications from ethnic minorities. Many foreign nationals and ethnic minorities have contributed to our society for generations. They have taken Hong Kong as their only home and want to become locals. There is no reason why their applications should not be considered.