Date
24 April 2019
Following reports that Huawei’s arrested CFO Sabrina Meng (seen in picture) had more than one Hong Kong passport, apart from several issued by China, Hong Kong’s immigration department has faced calls for a probe into the matter. Photo: Reuters
Following reports that Huawei’s arrested CFO Sabrina Meng (seen in picture) had more than one Hong Kong passport, apart from several issued by China, Hong Kong’s immigration department has faced calls for a probe into the matter. Photo: Reuters

Why the Sabrina Meng passport saga is a cause for concern

Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer and deputy chairperson of Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies, is in the media spotlight following her arrest by Canadian authorities, at the request of the US, for her firm’s alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

While Meng’s arrest has provoked a ferocious diplomatic backlash from Beijing, it has also triggered a sideshow in Hong Kong, and become a cause for considerable concern in the city.

It is because, according to a letter provided to Canada by the US Department of Justice, “in the past 11 years, Meng has been issued no fewer than seven different passports from both China and Hong Kong.”

Among them, four are said to be mainland China passports while the remaining three were issued by the HKSAR government.

That immediately raises concerns: an individual having both a mainland and a HKSAR passport simultaneously is already mind-boggling enough; now we have a person who is suspected of possessing three HKSAR passports at the same time.

In particular, the details released by the US justice department indicate that Meng was travelling on her second HKSAR passport, going by the sequence of the numbers of her passports, when she was apprehended by Canadian authorities, suggesting that Meng could possibly be having two valid HKSAR passports (the second and third ones) at the same time.

If it is true, then one should definitely cry foul, because it constitutes a violation of Hong Kong’s law for any individual to possess more than one valid HKSAR passport at any time.

Of course, if we take a closer look, we can find that it is not unreasonable for a person to have more than one HKSAR passport, because when a person renews his or her HKSAR passport, the Immigration Department usually allows the holder to keep the canceled one.

Meanwhile, in circumstances where a passport has expired or its pages have been all used but the passport still bears a valid overseas visa, the holder can apply to cross link the existing passport with the new one with the Immigration Department.

Yet even so, the old passport is still considered invalid under the existing laws despite the fact that it contains a foreign visa that is still in force.

In other words, a person shall only possess a single valid HKSAR passport at any time.

Now the biggest mystery is, if Meng was really traveling on her second and supposedly old HKSAR passport in Canada like the US government has claimed, does that mean she has been in possession of two valid Hong Kong passports?

In our opinion, a not too flimsy inference is that Meng could have been carrying a canceled HKSAR passport which contains a valid foreign visa along with a newly issued one when she was changing planes at the Vancouver airport.

Still, no matter what, we believe the Immigration Department owes us a clarification on whether the second HKSAR passport Meng holds is valid. Members of the public are fully justified in having concerns about the issue because it pertains to our immigration policies and also has a bearing on the credibility of the HKSAR passport.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 10

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal

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