Hong Kong passports holders are only allowed to have one valid passport at any time, the Hong Kong Immigration Department said on Sunday after it was revealed that Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou had held three travel documents of the city.

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei and its founder’s daughter, was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 by Canadian authorities. She is facing extradition to the US for allegedly breaking Iran sanctions by using Skycom, a Hong Kong company of which Meng was once a board member. The US authorities said that the Skycom employees are in fact Huawei employees.

Meng Wanzhou
Meng Wanzhou.

According to US Department of Justice documents, Meng had at least four Chinese passports and three Hong Kong passports. Apple Daily also reported that Meng had owned a Chinese service passport. It was unclear whether she owned more than one Chinese or Hong Kong passport at the same time at any moment.

In a statement, the Hong Kong Immigration Department said that it does not comment on individual cases. The department did, however, explain its prevailing practice of allowing Hong Kong passport holders to apply for a replacement passport when the one they hold expires. Holders may apply for a replacement passport before its expiry if passports are lost, damaged, defaced, or if personal particulars in the passport have to be amended.

“In case of need, such as the existing passport bears a valid visa, [the] applicant may upon application for replacement of HKSAR passport, also apply to cross link the existing passport with the new passport,” the department said on Sunday.

“Cross linking of HKSAR passports means making an endorsement on both the previous and new passports to the effect that the previous passport bears a visa which is still in force but the previous passport shall be cancelled by means of cutting.”

“Any holder, therefore, shall be not in possession of more than one valid HKSAR passport at any time.”

Hong Kong SAR passport
Hong Kong SAR passport. Photo: GovHK.

University of Hong Kong law scholar Eric Cheung cited Canadian court documents and said that Meng used her second HKSAR passport to enter Canada on December 1, instead of using her third HKSAR passport, which should be issued after the second passport.

It was unclear whether Meng was using a visa on her second passport, and whether the second passport was still valid. The Canadian documents said the US government believed that Meng was only making a stopover in Vancouver and that her final destination was believed to be Mexico.

“I still believe that the Hong Kong government needs to investigate the incident and offer the public an explanation,” Cheung said on Saturday on his Facebook page.

Lai Tung-kwok, who was formerly security secretary and used to be head of the Immigration Department, said he did not have enough information to understand why Meng had multiple HKSAR passports.

He said on Monday that anyone can only hold one valid Hong Kong passport at any time, and he was confident that the Hong Kong system was capable of preventing anyone from holding two valid HKSAR passports at the same time.

“I am not concerned about the credibility of the HKSAR passport,” he said on a Commercial Radio programme. “But if Meng has more than one valid HKSAR passport, the issuing department should investigate.”

What is clear is that Meng had been in possession of both Chinese and HKSAR passports at the same time. Meng’s lawyer told the Canadian court that she was willing to hand over both passports.

Lai said that it is not illegal for HKSAR passport holders to own multiple passports from different nations.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.