Indonesians behind bulk of applications for citizenship

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 1998, 12:00am

More than 150 foreigners have applied to become Chinese citizens since the handover, according to Immigration Department figures.

The Alliance of Chinese and Expatriates said they would mostly have been ethnic Chinese Indonesians seeking refuge from anti-Chinese violence after the May riots.

Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty has allowed foreigners with the right of abode in the SAR to be naturalised as Chinese citizens as long as they meet certain conditions.

The largest group is people from Indonesia and Vietnam with Chinese ancestors, according to Immigration Department sources.

No applicants were Europeans although some had Eurasian and mixed ancestry, they said.

The department received 152 applications for naturalisation, of which 55 were yet to be finalised and 97 were finalised by the end of June. Only 33 naturalisation certificates were issued.

Statistics were not kept on the race of applicants, a spokesman said.

'If I were ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, I would be inclined to take citizenship in whatever country would take me, and China would be the obvious one,' said Guy Lam Kwok-hung, chairman of the Alliance of Chinese and Expatriates.

But Beijing had been reluctant to accept Indonesian Chinese, as its intake of thousands during the massacres of 1966 and 1967 had hurt relations with Jakarta for years.

Mr Lam urged the SAR to waive the requirement for those seeking citizenship, which requires people to have lived in Hong Kong for seven years, to accommodate ethnic Chinese fleeing Indonesia.

'I think in light of the situation in Southeast Asia, they could act more sympathetically,' he said.

An Immigration Department spokesman said Indonesian Chinese - who are allowed to stay in Hong Kong visa-free for 14 days - would continue to be treated the same but applications for extension of stay would be treated with flexibility.

A large number of ethnic Chinese fleeing the riots and alleged rapes arrived in Hong Kong during May, according to Immigration Department statistics.

Foreigners or stateless people seeking Chinese citizenship need to either: be near-relatives of Chinese nationals; have settled in China; or have other legitimate reasons.