A Hong Kong woman has sought the help of a national lawmaker after being told that she was not allowed to marry a Shenzhen police officer in his city because of a dated regulation that banned civil servants from marrying 'foreigners'. In a letter to Hong Kong National People's Congress deputy Choy So-yuk, the woman complained that the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau had based its decision on legislation that predated Hong Kong's 1997 handover. 'Hong Kong has now returned to the mainland for 13 years, and nobody would dare say that Hong Kong people are not Chinese,' the woman, who identified herself only by her surname, Ng, wrote. State security laws preventing public officials from marrying non-Chinese citizens came into force in 1984, while Hong Kong was still under British rule and a year before the Joint Declaration was signed. As a result, the Shenzhen authorities said Hong Kong citizens were considered 'foreigners', and the marriage would not be approved. In her letter, Ng said she had checked with other cities in Guangdong and discovered they did not have similar restrictions barring police from marrying Hongkongers. She urged Choy to take up her case with authorities in Beijing to preserve her 'freedom to love and freedom to marry'. 'I feel really helpless,' Ng wrote. 'We have no other demands; we just want a legal marriage.' Choy, who is attending the NPC annual plenary session in Beijing, said she would raise the issue at a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Public Security today. 'Hong Kong has returned to the motherland for more than 10 years,' Choy said. 'Why should Hongkongers still be considered foreigners and therefore be barred from marrying mainland police officers?' Legal experts are divided over whether the rule applies and how easily it could be overturned. Hong Kong-based Chinese law professor Ong Yew-kim said there appeared to be no legal basis for barring the marriage. 'There was never a law or legal document which said that Hong Kong residents were considered foreigners, so this is a matter of interpretation,' Ong said. 'The Ministry of Public Security should amend this internal practice.' But Guangdong-based marriage law expert Liu Weimin said the matter lay in higher hands, as the definition of Hong Kong citizens as 'non-mainland citizens' was political rather than legal. 'There must be special rules governing the marriage for certain positions in the civil service, so this is not a matter of just abolishing the concerned regulation,' he said. Only the central government or the Supreme People's Court can redefine the status of Hong Kong citizens, he said.