23 February 2019
Asma Butt is hoping to be issued a Hong Kong passport so she can get a student visa in Singapore. Photo: Facebook
Asma Butt is hoping to be issued a Hong Kong passport so she can get a student visa in Singapore. Photo: Facebook

Why this HK-born ethnic minority student feels left out

A local-born ethnic minority student who received a scholarship to study abroad is at a loss over being denied a Hong Kong passport and not being told why.

Asma Butt, 17, told EJ Insight she needs the passport to study in Singapore.

Butt, whose parents are Pakistani, said the Immigration Department denied her application without giving a reason.

“I treat Hong Kong as my home but I wonder if Hong Kong sees non-Chinese-speaking people as a member of the community,” she said.

“I’ve always believed that I should adapt to the environment if I am going to live here. That’s why I chose to study in local schools in order to be with Chinese-speaking students and learn the local culture.”

Butt, who is in secondary six, received a grant from LHF Scholarship for Ethnic Minority, a program that helps students from ethnic minorities.

She said the scholarship gave her a chance to study in Singapore for three years.

“It’s a great honor to get the award for any Chinese-speaking student, not to mention a South Asian student like me,” she said.

Before the new school year, she was issued a short-term visa by the Singapore consulate.

That allowed her to stay in Singapore for a week but she was unable to get a student visa as she holds a Pakistani passport.

She sought help from LHF and her school in Hong Kong and filed three appeals to the Singapore government to no avail.

Butt said LHF advised her to apply for a Hong Kong passport and continue her studies in Hong Kong in the meantime.

She said her family never applied for a Hong Kong passport because her father wants them to keep their Pakistani citizenship.

“After waiting for 10 months, I was told in October by the Immigration Department that my application had been rejected. It was a day before my 17th birthday. It wasn’t the kind of birthday present I was expecting.”

She said she has repeatedly sought answers from immigration authorities only to be told they don’t need to explain their decision.

Butt said she feels unfairly treated. 

“All I wanted was to study to become a registered social worker in the future, so I can help my fellow South Asians,” she said.

On Tuesday, Butt took to Facebook to tell her experience in Hong Kong Stories.

One should be a Chinese citizen, have right of abode in Hong Kong and hold a valid Hong Kong permanent identity card to be eligible for an HKSAR passport, according to the Immigration Department website. 

A Chinese citizen is defined as someone who has Chinese nationality under the Chinese nationality law as elaborated in “the interpretation of Chinese Nationality Law when applying [for a passport] in the HKSAR”.

The law was passed by the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, on May 15, 1996.

73% of non-Chinese applicants in HK granted Chinese nationality (Jan. 12, 2016)

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