Home Return Permit

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Home Return Permit
Home Return Permit New.jpg
Front of current card (since 2013).

Back of Current Card

Back of current card (since 2013).
Traditional Chinese 回鄉證
Simplified Chinese 回乡证
Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macau Residents
Traditional Chinese 港澳居民來往內地通行證
Simplified Chinese 港澳居民来往内地通行证

A ‘Home Return Permit’ (simplified Chinese: 港澳居民来往内地通行证; traditional Chinese: 港澳居民來往內地通行證), also referred to as a ‘Home Visit Permit’[1] or ‘China Back Home Pass’,[citation needed] is the colloquial name for the travel document officially known as the Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents issued to PRC citizens who are residents of Hong Kong and Macau as the entry permit to mainland China. The permit is issued by the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security through China Travel Service sub-branches in Hong Kong and Macau and allows holders to travel freely to mainland China.

The word 'home' is used because this permit used to be issued to Chinese migrants living in Hong Kong and Macau for travelling to their hometowns in mainland China. Today, most holders of this permit are people who were born and brought up in Hong Kong and Macau; the permit plays the role of a travel document for visiting mainland China rather than a permit which allows the holder to 'return home'.

History[edit]

Home-Visiting Certificate for Compatriots from Hong Kong and Macau
Pre-1999 home return permit.jpg
Pre-1999 permit.
Traditional Chinese 港澳同胞回鄉證
Simplified Chinese 港澳同胞回乡证
1999-circa 2013 home entry permit (front): The holders of the older version may have difficulty using it for air travel.
1999-circa 2013 home entry permit (back): The holders of the older version may have difficulty using it for air travel.

Before the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong and Macau, 'home-return permits' were issued to any ethnic Chinese person in those territories.

Prior to 1999, permits were called Home-visiting Certificate for Hong Kong and Macao Compatriots and resembled passports. These booklets were considered inconvenient, because they were large and cumbersome to carry around. Furthermore, the booklets were also found to be inefficient because they could only be used at manned checkpoints where a manual stamp could only be made by an immigration official. Thus they were phased out as residents replace them upon expiration.

In 1999, the permit was changed into its current card and the official name has changed from 'Home-Visiting Certificate for Compatriots from Hong Kong and Macau' to the current name.

Appearance[edit]

The current permit is a credit card-sized card which facilitates entry into mainland China at any manned immigration checkpoint or through self-service electronic gates (currently available at Hong Kong-Shenzhen, Macau-Zhuhai crossings, Beijing West Railway Station Crossing, and Shanghai Pudong International Airport). These gates read the permit cards with an optical reader and use biometric software to match thumb prints and facial scans with those on record.[citation needed]

Starting 2 January 2013, the permit's appearance has been changed. An RFID electronic chip was added to the permit. The numbering scheme of the permit has been revamped: the previous 11-digit permit number has been separated to a 9-digit permit number and a 2-digit issuing sequence number. The permits now also have an English description which reads "This card is intended for its holder to travel to the mainland of China." The holders of the older version may have difficulty using it for air travel. The traditional Chinese name of holder on his/her Hong Kong or Macau Identity Card appears on the back of the permit. The issuing authority of this permit have been changed from Public Security Bureau of Guangdong province to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security.

Validity[edit]

Most adult permits are valid for 10 years; minors under 18 years old are issued permits valid for five years. Temporary permits are given for practical reasons, such as when a person's permit has expired and the replacement has not arrived. There have been instances of limited single and double entry home visit permits issued due to political reasons. For instance, controversial individuals such as pro-democracy politicians — often from Hong Kong — are only issued single visit permits.

Rights and responsibilities[edit]

Holders of the Home Return Permit are able to freely enter Mainland China for tourism or business purposes (but not purposes of employment) within the validity of their travel document, regardless of the point of origin. (from Hong Kong, Macau, or overseas)[2] However, they must register with the local police (Public Security Bureau) within 24 hours — or within 72 hours in the countryside — if they are staying overnight for a short trip in a friend or relative's home.[3]

If holders of the Home Return Permit intend to reside in the Mainland on a long term basis, they are required to first obtain permission from the local prefecture/municipality police (Public Security Bureau), from whom they will obtain a special long-term residence permit if their application is accepted.

Applying for a Home Return Permit[edit]

The China Travel Service (CTS) is the sole authorised agency by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) to provide services to help accept applications in Hong Kong and Macau. However, it is the Guangdong Province PSB that processes the applications.

Holders who have lost their Home Return Permit in the mainland can apply for a temporary replacement at the CTS branch in Huanggang. They will, however, need to apply for a full, new Home Return Permit on return to Hong Kong or Macau with the CTS.

Hong Kong and Macau permanent residents in foreign countries, who do not already have a Home Return Permit,[4] can apply to their local Chinese foreign mission for a special travel pass to mainland China, although this document is not a Home Return Permit. This document is called the People's Republic of China Travel Document. (中華人民共和國旅行証)[5][6]

Nationality of holders[edit]

A home return permit constitutes proof of PRC citizenship in mainland China.[citation needed] Its status in Hong Kong law is less clear, due to the principle of one country, two systems and the designation of the Hong Kong Immigration Department as the competent authority to determine matters under the Chinese Nationality Law relating to Hong Kong permanent residents. As Vice-President of the Court of Appeal Wally Yeung wrote:[1]

Mr. Pun has also emphasized that the fact that Yiu Hon holds a Home Visit Permit shows that the Chinese Government recognizes Yiu Hon has the status as a Chinese national. I do not understand the principle on which the Chinese Government issued Yiu Hon a Home Visit Permit. However, under the principle of one county, two systems, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will not be subject to the decision of the Chinese Government on the above question. The Court shall decide whether or not Yiu Hon is still a 'Chinese national' in accordance with the Chinese Nationality Law and related provisions. The fact that Yiu Hon holds a Home Visit Permit has no direct bearing or significance on the matter in question.

Furthermore, not all PRC citizens in Hong Kong or Macau have a Home Return Permit. Unlike a compulsory Hong Kong identity card, application for a home return permit is voluntary. They are still eligible for an HKSAR passport issued by the Immigration Department of the Hong Kong Government, or an MSAR passport by the Macau Government. The SAR passports are only issued to PRC citizens with the right of abode in Hong Kong or Macau. The HKSAR passport allows travel to foreign countries and regions. Note that the HKSAR passport may not be used for travel to Macau; and while it is not to be used as a travel document for travel to Taiwan, it is nonetheless used in conjunction with the entry permit issued by the Republic of China government to prove the identity of the holder. PRC citizens holding an HKSAR passport cannot use the SAR passport to enter the Chinese mainland. The HKSAR Government has stated that "in line with the one country principle, it was considered inappropriate to adopt HKSAR passport as a travel document to enter the Mainland."[7]

Likewise, the Home Return Permit cannot be used to enter Hong Kong or Macau.

Issues facing British passport holders[edit]

Many, but not all, residents of Hong Kong are British Nationals (Overseas) (BN(O)s). The PRC Government does not recognise BN(O) passports issued to Hong Kong residents of PRC nationality. They cannot use their BN(O) passports to enter mainland China before or after the handover.

Issues facing other foreign passport holders[edit]

Besides BN(O) status, British citizenship and PRC citizenship, many Hong Kong residents have obtained overseas citizenship in countries such as Australia, Canada, or the United States. Officially speaking, if they have not made a "declaration of change of nationality" at the Immigration Department of Hong Kong, they are regarded by the PRC authority as PRC citizens. In this case, they can use their home-visit permits to enter mainland China instead of their foreign passports although in some circumstances boarding of a direct flight to the mainland could potentially be denied since a Huixiangzheng does not appear in the Timatic system if the airline check-in agent uses that system and the passenger's country of residence is entered as being other than Hong Kong/PRC.[8] Under the master nationality rule, persons entering with a home-visit permit are entering as Chinese citizens and are accordingly not entitled to foreign consular protection.

Incidents[edit]

Ching Cheong[edit]

In 2005, Ching Cheong (程翔), a Hong Kong-based journalist of the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times, was arrested by the mainland national security authorities. He was accused of stealing "state secrets". The correspondent entered the mainland on his home return permit, while he is also a BN(O) passport holder. Since he is both PRC citizen, British National (Overseas), as well as a permanent resident of Singapore, some organisations, like the Hong Kong Journalists' Association and Reporters without borders, urged the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to intervene. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it had no plans to comment on the case. British officials have indicated that if there were any representations to be made, they would take place behind the scenes. A London spokesperson said: "We can offer consular assistance but we cannot interfere in the legal affairs of another country." The PRC central government never recognised his British National (Overseas) status. The PRC states that its citizens from Hong Kong cannot enjoy United Kingdom consular protection inside the PRC on the basis of their BN(O) or BC passports. The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom stated that "Mr Ching is a British National (Overseas) passport holder and we have pressed the central authorities for information on the circumstances of his arrest and will continue to seek consular access as a matter of urgency, which so far has been denied." There are other cases that the British Government was asked to assist BN(O) passport holders detained inside the Chinese mainland.[9][10]

Pro-democracy politicians[edit]

Before the handover some pro-democracy Hong Kong politicians, such as Margaret Ng,[11][11] Emily Lau[12][13] and Christine Loh[14] attempted to use their British Citizen passports to enter mainland China because they were denied from applying for a Home Return Permit. Without the permit they are denied from entering mainland China; however, those politicians are still PRC citizens under the Chinese nationality law; acquisition of PRC citizenship of ethnic Chinese residents in Hong Kong is involuntary, although they may elect to forfeit their Chinese citizenship if they hold a foreign nationality, except the British National (Overseas) status and the British citizenship obtained in the British Nationality Selection Scheme.

Albert Ho, who had his Home Return Permit taken away by the Central government, ran for chief executive in 2012.[15] During the election campaign, Henry Tang pledged that if he became the next Chief executive, he would talk to Beijing to try and get him his permit back.[16] Leung gave a more generic response that did not answer to Ho specifically. He said if he became the next Chief executive, his door is wide open, and he welcomes anyone to come to him to seek for help.[16]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Book in Chinese: 張勇、陳玉田:《香港居民的國籍問題》(出版社:三聯書店(香港))

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tse Yiu-hon v. HKSAR Passports Appeal Board, HCAL 1240/2000; the applicant was found on appeal to be a Chinese national, but in overturning Yeung's judgment the court did not disturb this point.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ 港澳居民赴内地手续办理指南 (Information page from the Central People's Government in Chinese) Retrieved on 2008-10-20.
  4. ^ http://newyork.china-consulate.org/chn/lszj/bzyq/hzqz/t42306.htm#10
  5. ^ 香港居民旅行证件 (Information page from the Chinese Embassy in London in Chinese) Retrieved on 2008-10-20.
  6. ^ 澳门居民旅行证件 (Information page from the Chinese Embassy in London in Chinese) Retrieved on 2008-10-20.
  7. ^ HK Gov. " Legco." LegCo Panel on Security. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  8. ^ Timatic: Nationality HKSAR Residence Canada
  9. ^ HKhrc. " HKhrc." Local Human Rights Issues. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  10. ^ FmcoprcHKhrc. " Fmcoprc." Office of the Commissioner of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  11. ^ a b HK Human Rights Monitor. " HKhrm." Rule of Law Protector should not be left unprotected. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  12. ^ BBC News. " BBC." Pro-democracy politician in Hong Kong gives up British citizenship. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  13. ^ HK Human Rights Monitor. " HKhrm." Report on 1998 Legislative Council Election. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  14. ^ Asiaweek. " Asiaweek." Newly Found Patriotism. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
  15. ^ "真假莫辨:民主黨禁黨員做局長". Wenweipo. 6 January 2012. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "唐英年何俊仁夾擊寸爆梁振英". Hong Kong Daily News. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012