UK passport holder Lee Bo, 65, is one of five booksellers who have gone missing in Hong Kong. The disappearances have sparked shocks and anger among Hong Kong citizens. The UK has recently “urgently enquired” for information from Chinese. I am particularly intrigued about the response from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he was asked by Mr Philip Hammond, British Foreign Secretary during a news conference in Beijing.
Mr Wang told journalists the missing bookseller was “first and foremost a Chinese citizen”, while the Chinese foreign ministry has said other countries had “no right to interfere”.
This formal response made me looking for information about British Foreign Office offered for a person who has dual nationality (similar to Mr Lee).
According to the “Support for British nationals abroad: A guide”, if British nationals are missing overseas, the Foreign Office will:
- tell you how to make a missing persons report for your local police so that Interpol enquiries can begin.
- give you information about appropriate local authorities. They can also give you contact details for any relevant local charitable and voluntary organisations specialising in tracing missing people. Where appropriate, they can give you information about the federation or association of any local private detective agencies.
If British nationals are kidnapped or taken hostage overseas, they will try to do everything they properly can to make sure they are released safely. Where they can, they will work with the government in that country, who will normally take the lead in dealing with the situation.
Speaking to a lawyer specialised in International Law, his view about Mr Lee’s case in HK really helped me to understand the dual nationality issue better. He explained that because the Chinese nationality law stated that China did not recognise dual nationality with any other country. In general, Hong Kong and Macau residents with Chinese ethnicity are Chinese nationals, regardless if they have dual nationality or not. Within the context of Chinese nationality law, Mr Wang was right to point out Mr Lee was indeed Chinese citizen.
My colleague pointed out that British citizens would still have rights to access support from the Foreign Office. If a person has dual national status then the British consul can normally only offer support if they are travelling on British passport. If travelling on the other passport, you should go to that state’s embassy, high commission or consulate.
This might change some people of what travel documents they would use to enter Hong Kong in the future.