The Office of the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong recently sent warning letters to local foreign consulates, informing them that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) law does not recognize dual nationality. The letters stated that these consulates have no right to conduct consular access to Hong Kong detainees with dual nationality. According to a report by Japanese media outlet “Nikkei Asia,” the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong sent a letter to all local foreign consulates on May 31, emphasizing that the CCP does not recognize dual nationality and cautioning foreign consular officers against visiting Chinese nationals detained in Hong Kong. The letter explicitly stated that Beijing considers an individual a Chinese national unless they renounce their citizenship.
The notice sent by the Office of the Commissioner was received by the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong and Macau. The consulate confirmed that the notice will prevent consular officials from providing assistance to Canadians with dual citizenship. Nonetheless, the Canadian government stressed its commitment to ensuring the safety of Canadian citizens abroad. On the other hand, the Japanese consulate did not confirm whether it had received the letter. However, the Japanese side expressed that it will continue to provide consular access to bona fide Japanese nationals, regardless of the CCP’s laws. The U.S. consulate called on Hong Kong authorities to adhere to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and bilateral agreements to guarantee consular notification for detainees. Meanwhile, the Australian and British consulates declined to comment, and South Korea did not respond to the issue.
According to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, consular officers possess the right to access their nationals who are imprisoned, detained, or interned in a foreign country. They can communicate with them and appoint legal representatives on their behalf. However, if the detained individual explicitly objects to such actions, the consular officer must refrain from taking them.
Several individuals with dual citizenship have been arrested in Hong Kong, including a defendant involved in the pro-democracy camp’s primary election case. This individual holds both Australian and Chinese nationalities. Australian media reported in February 2022 that the Australian consulate had repeatedly requested to meet with the defendant but was denied by the Hong Kong government. The person in question is believed to be Gordon Ng Ching-hang.
Another well-known individual with dual citizenship is Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the founder of the former “Next Media,” who holds a British passport. He is facing charges of violating the Hong Kong National Security Law, with his trial scheduled for September and a pre-trial hearing in August. The case attracted attention from Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the British Conservative Party, who expressed concerns during a recent House of Commons meeting. He believed that the British government has a responsibility to assist Lai, including exercising consular access rights to visit him.
In conclusion, the Office of the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong has sent warning letters to local foreign consulates, asserting that the CCP does not recognize dual nationality and cautioning against consular access to Hong Kong detainees with dual citizenship. The issue has received varied responses from different countries, with Canada confirming the receipt of the notice and the intention to prioritize the safety of its citizens abroad. Japan expressed its commitment to providing consular access to bona fide Japanese nationals, while the United States called for compliance with international agreements. The Australian and British consulates refrained from commenting, and South Korea remained silent. Multiple individuals with dual citizenship have been arrested in Hong Kong, drawing international attention to the issue of consular access and raising concerns about their legal rights and protection.