Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

Figures reveal thousands from ethnic minorities have won naturalisation

Official figures reveal that thousands from city's minorities have won citizenship since handover

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 11:15am

Despite a rash of complaints that Hong Kong's ethnic minorities are being discriminated against when they try to become naturalised Chinese citizens, new official figures reveal that thousands of Pakistanis, Indonesians, Indians, Vietnamese and Filipinos have been granted the status.

The figures published this week cast a different light on some recent high-profile cases, which appeared to show that getting naturalisation as a Chinese citizen was virtually impossible.

In one recent case, Professor Shekhar Madhukar Kumta from India was denied Chinese citizenship in September, despite 23 years' residence in Hong Kong and extensive contributions to his field locally and on the mainland. Kumta, 55, the assistant dean of Chinese University's faculty of medicine, has also worked at Prince of Wales Hospital.

However, figures for applicants naturalised as Chinese nationals from the July 1997 handover until last month show that the Pakistani, Indonesian, Indian, Vietnamese and Filipino nationalities are the top five for becoming naturalised citizens.

In total, 3,411 Pakistanis won approval from Beijing for naturalisation out of the 4,536 who applied from July 1997 to last month. During this period, 3,786 Indonesians applied and 3,399 were granted naturalisation, while 2,487 of the 3,224 Indians who applied were approved. The top countries after this were Vietnam (1,593 applied; 1,115 approved) and the Philippines (570 applied; 387 approved).

A government spokesman said the figures proved that each case was treated on its individual merits, and that no matter what country people were from, no prejudice was involved when making a decision.

"We have a set of criteria that must be met if a person applies for Chinese naturalisation. If all these criteria are met successfully, then there is no reason why a person cannot get Chinese naturalisation without any problems," the spokesman said.

Tsim Sha Tsui-based immigration consultant Richard Aziz Butt, who specialises in naturalisation and passport issues for the city's ethnic minorities, still had reservations.

"Many people apply for naturalisation, but when they don't get it, they are given no reason as to why, so they have no way of rectifying the problem when they reapply," he said.

Butt also said that it could take up to two years before a decision was made, and an applicant's situations could change within that time - affecting their application.

"I know that in some cases, it only takes two weeks for mainland authorities to get these applications and make a decision. Why, then, does it have to be dragged out for so long?" he said.

"It's like they are delaying making a decision, so that something can happen within that time frame to give them a reason not to grant naturalisation."