CHINA was yesterday urged to make clear whether Hong Kong people with foreign passports would enjoy consular protection after 1997. A leading pro-China figure said Beijing was worried that if tens of thousands of people had that protection, the territory would become an international political city - the thing it most feared. The calls for clarity followed confusion over remarks made by Chinese officials at the weekend. A Hong Kong government official said 'there are points that need to be clarified'. 'If China does not do so, we will need to talk about it through the Joint Liaison Group,' he said. Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and an aide were speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Osaka on Sunday. Mr Qian said: 'Some permanent residents in Hong Kong have gained nationality status in foreign countries while undertaking economic and trade activities. 'This is conducive to Hong Kong. Some countries have allowed dual nationality, but China does not. They can use their foreign passports as travel documents. The detailed methods will be further examined.' On whether foreign passport holders would be eligible for permanent residency, he said: 'I think they do not necessarily have to stay here permanently after 1997 [to gain permanent residency status]. 'They should at least for the time being make a declaration that they will continue to keep their permanent residency status.' A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Chen Jian, said the question of dual nationality did not arise as long as those who held foreign passports did not apply for a passport of the Special Administrative Region (SAR). 'If they apply for an SAR passport, their foreign passports can only be used as travel documents,' he said. Pro-China figure Liu Yiu-chu yesterday said: 'The most problematic issue for China is not the return of those emigrants, but their right to have consular protection . . . China does not want to face up to this issue. They want to keep it ambiguous.' China was worried tens of thousands of local residents who held foreign passports would come under the protection of foreign countries if they returned to the SAR. 'Inevitably, Hong Kong will become what China dislikes most - an international political city. Foreign countries will have an excuse to intervene,' said Ms Liu, a lawyer and Hong Kong delegate to the National People's Congress. But the head of the Hong Kong Alliance of Chinese and Expatriates, Guy Lam Kwok-hung, welcomed Mr Qian's remarks. 'I would not say that the Chinese Government is accepting dual nationality, but it seems it is considering a more flexible approach towards returnees,' he said. Mr Lam said that if returnees applied for an SAR passport, they would have dual nationality and according to Chinese law, their foreign passport would not count. Those who did not apply would be foreign nationals with consular protection, he said. Mr Qian had acknowledged the contribution of returnees.