A Hong Kong born-and-raised girl of Pakistani descent has been denied the opportunity to apply for a Hong Kong SAR passport. She has also been forced to forgo a chance to study in Singapore.

Butt Asma Ali is currently a Form 6 student. She has a Hong Kong permanent identity card but had previously held a Pakistani passport, Apple Daily reported. When she was in Form Four, she was awarded a full scholarship to study in Singapore for three years, but was denied a student visa, while two other Pakistani students with HKSAR passports were able to get visas.


Under existing law, only Chinese citizens can apply for HKSAR passports, and minors have to apply with their parents, so Asma and her father decided to apply for naturalisation as Chinese nationals. However, their applications were denied and no reasons were given. As a result, they were unable to apply for HKSAR passports.

According to the Chinese Nationality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, the Director of Immigration does not need to give any reason for its decision. It also states that the applicant’s race, colour and religion will not affect the application.

Asma and her friends.

Asma was born in Hong Kong, speaks fluent Cantonese and has close Chinese friends. She has won several speech festival awards and was also a student leader. During the pro-democracy Occupy protests two years ago, Asma joined her friends at Admiralty to show support for the demonstrators.

“I don’t feel like I’m a Pakistani who doesn’t care about what’s happening in Hong Kong. On the other hand, I was born in Hong Kong and I’m basically a Hongkonger.”

The Immigration Department said that Pakistanis were amongst those who made the most applications and their success rate was 72 percent.

Asma has submitted an appeal. “Do they treat us non-Chinese as part of society?” she asked.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.