The renunciation of British citizenship by “detained” British citizen and Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo is “questionable”, says British MP and Chairman of All Party Parliamentary China Group (APPCG) Richard Graham.
“Anyone can renounce their citizenship, but the British government would have to be convinced that this was the case,” Graham told HKFP. “[A]s it has not yet had access to Lee Bo, this is questionable at the moment.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also said: “Despite formal requests, we have not been granted consular access to Mr Lee.”
Graham added that the procedure for the British authorities to verify and validate the renunciation of British citizenship would be through meeting, or receiving a formal letter, from the applicant.
In order to renounce citizenship, the applicant must meet three main criteria. Guidelines state that they must be aged 18 or above, be a citizen of another country, and be of full capacity.
Full capacity is defined as being “not of unsound mind”, according to the British Nationality Act 1981. To meet this requirement, the applicant wishing to renounce his/her nationality must have “some understanding of the meaning and consequences of renunciation”.
When asked whether the British authorities have received any applications from Lee to renounce his British citizenship, Graham said he did not know of any of such application. However, he said that Lee’s assertion that he went back to China on his own accord “sounds rather improbable.”
“The world awaits a proper and plausible explanation. Britain also wants reassurance that 3.4 million British passport holders of different types in Hong Kong are still covered by the freedoms guaranteed under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” he said.
Graham is a British Member of Parliament and the Chairman of the APPCG, which was established in 1997 to widen the parliamentary contribution to the UK-China bilateral relationship.
A television interview surfaced on Monday, where Lee, who has been missing since last year, said that he would give up his British residency.
“A lot of people also made a huge fuss with the issue of UK residency, and it has become complicated. Therefore I have decided to give up my right to reside in the UK. My wife has agreed to this,” he said, speaking in Cantonese on the Phoenix TV news programme.
Before the television interview surfaced, Lee wrote at least three letters and recorded a video addressed to his wife. He was confirmed to be in the mainland on January 18, and met with his wife on January 23, all saying that he was safe and had gone to China voluntarily.
Several Hong Kong lawmakers, including the newly-elected Alvin Yeung, have said that Lee’s claims were difficult to believe.
Lee Bo, and the four co-owners and staff members of Causeway Bay Books and its parent company Mighty Current – which specialises in Chinese political gossip titles – all disappeared late last year. All five of them are now known to be in police custody in mainland China.