Hong Kong bars consular access to dual-nationality 'subversion' suspect

The Australian government says the city authorities refuse to recognize his other nationality.
By Jojo Man and Gao Feng
2022.02.08
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Hong Kong bars consular access to dual-nationality 'subversion' suspect People gather at Victoria Park for a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, Dec. 8, 2019.
AFP

A man holding dual Chinese and Australian nationality is believed to be among 47 democracy activists and opposition politicians awaiting trial for "subversion" under a draconian security law for taking part in a democratic primary, Australian media reported.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) hasn't named the man, but says he was arrested on Jan. 6 last year, the date of the mass arrests of the 47 political activists, on suspicion of "conspiring to subvert state power," before being bailed, rearrested and charged with "subversion," ABC news reported.

The man -- who was potentially identified by the news website HK01.com as Gordon Ng -- has spent the last 11 months in jail and could face life imprisonment under the national security law, which ushered in a citywide crackdown on political opposition and public dissent in the wake of the 2019 protest movement.

Australian officials have been repeatedly refused consular access to the man, ABC quoted a DFAT spokesperson as saying.

"We have been denied consular access despite multiple attempts because the individual is deemed to be a Chinese citizen under China's citizenship laws, which do not recognise dual nationality," the spokesperson said.

The case has raised concerns about dual nationals of China and another country who are caught up in the current political crackdown in Hong Kong.

City leader Carrie Lam has previously warned that the government doesn't recognize dual nationality, and so anyone holding Chinese and another nationality will be denied consular assistance.

Gordon Ng, a dual Chinese and Australian national who has spent the last 11 months in jail and could face life imprisonment under Hong Kong's national security law, seen in his Facebook profile. Credit: Gordon Ng
Gordon Ng, a dual Chinese and Australian national who has spent the last 11 months in jail and could face life imprisonment under Hong Kong's national security law, seen in his Facebook profile. Credit: Gordon Ng
Hardening stance

Hong Kong political commentator Joseph Cheng said the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to have hardened its stance since promising to make "accommodations" for dual passport holders ahead of the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.

"The Hong Kong government used to take a relaxed attitude to this, even after the handover," Cheng told RFA. "Consular officials were still allowed to offer assistance to Hong Kong residents with foreign passports."

"But under the national security law, as this case shows, you will be considered a Chinese national ... even if you never gave up your foreign passport," he said.

Benson Wong, a former Hong Kong politics lecturer now based in the U.K., said Beijing's earlier attitude had come from a sudden mass wave of emigration out of Hong Kong in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

"Since 1989, a lot of business people and professionals in Hong Kong have held more than one nationality," Huang told RFA. "[Their earlier approach] was to a certain extent a compromise in the face of reality."

"If China had said it wouldn't recognize dual nationality at the time it took over in 1997, that would have been quite a shock, especially for the financial elite," he said.

"Now, the tacit understanding has changed, along with the political situation."

He said the emerging news about the Australian passport-holder could shake up a decades-long practice among Hong Kong residents, who have tended to prefer to live in the city as permanent residents while holding nationality of another country as an insurance policy.

"This puts a lot more pressure on Hong Kong people holding dual nationality to leave Hong Kong altogether," Wong said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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