Indian-born professor Shekhar Kumta angry over Chinese citizenship denial

Indian-born professor, a Hong Kong resident for 23 years whose work is acclaimed on the mainland, is at a loss to explain his rejection

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2012, 3:34am


A medical professor from India has been turned down for Chinese citizenship despite 23 years' residence in Hong Kong and extensive contributions to his field in Hong Kong and on the mainland, he said.

Professor Shekhar Madhukar Kumta, 55, assistant dean of Chinese University's faculty of medicine, has also worked for the department of orthopaedics and traumatology at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

A permanent ID card holder, he applied for naturalisation in 2010. "My contributions are acknowledged, supported and rewarded, but I am still unable to naturalise," he said. "To me, it is very confusing and perplexing."

He is the latest of several ethnic minority Hongkongers to have reported their rejection for naturalisation as a Chinese citizen. Kumta's application was turned down last year, but he approached the South China Morning Post only recently in reaction to other similar stories.

After submitting all the necessary paperwork for the citizenship process, Kumta says he was not even granted an interview - nor given a reason for his rejection. "I have no understanding of the basis for my refusal," he said.

He regards Hong Kong as his home and thinks citizenship would give him more protection while working in China.

Educated in India, Kumta first came to Hong Kong in 1984 for a conference at Prince of Wales Hospital. He was hired by the university as a visiting lecturer in 1989 and has worked his way up to his current position.

Kumta acknowledged he may have a lower public profile than other foreigners who have gained citizenship, such as Ocean Park chairman Allan Zeman, Design Hong Kong chief executive Paul Zimmerman and former Invest HK director general Mike Rowse.

But his achievements are well known in his field, he says.

Kumta led a team of professors who developed an award-winning technique using computer navigation to help with bone tumour surgery in 2006.

He has been invited to universities and hospitals on the mainland to help them develop the technique. He is a widely recognised educator and researcher and speaks some Cantonese.

Kumta said his rejection may be due to the fact his wife, two sons and daughter migrated to Australia in search of work and education opportunities.

"It's an individual's decision. Even if my family were here … I could not force them to take any nationality. This is entirely my choice [to stay here]," he said. He plans to reapply for Chinese citizenship, he said.

An Immigration Department spokesman refused to comment on individual cases.

According to the Nationality Law, anyone may apply for naturalisation if they have near relatives who are Chinese nationals, if they have settled in China or have other legitimate reasons.