I would shamelessly admit that, when I first got here, I was giddy to flash my diplomatic passport as well as my upcoming Hong Kong ID specifically given only to diplomats, the Consular Corps ID. It’s just like having the latest model of Barbie as a little girl, you want to make sure your friends see you play with it for the first time. A year later, I found myself having of limited use for both.
When we first signed a property contract here, one of the first questions the property agent asked was what our jobs were. The thing is, he does not know what a diplomat is, what a Vice Consul is nor what a consulate is. We tried using embassy and ambassador, terms that we assumed were more common to the uninitiated, but it seems nobody in that property office has heard of them either. Mr. Diplomat and I were mumbling, Don’t you guys travel? I bet they do. Hong Kongers are very much capable of that. But for some strange reason, they do not know what these terms are. At that time, we were armed only with our passports as our Hong Kong IDs were not ready yet, so we tried to explain things using those. I can still remember his blank stare as he examined them. Apart from the country specified, he cannot tell the significance of any other word indicated there. As luck would have it, the owner of the flat is a long-term employee of Cathay Pacific and completely understands our status. You can imagine our relief to finally find a local who can explain it on our behalf.
A month after settling in, we finally got our Hong Kong IDs. That of our private staff looks like the smart identity card you would generally see here, made of plastic and equipped with a chip.
All your personal information, including fingerprints and visa information (www.gov.hk), are embedded in the chip.
Ours, on the other hand, look like this.
My first reaction was, I waited for a month for this?! It reminded me of a temporary library card. I know places where this can be fabricated for HKD20 flat!
Holding on to the fact that the Consular Corps IDs were issued by the Immigration Department, I used mine for Little Miss Siu Baau’s first visit to a health center. The first question was, Where is your Hong Kong ID? I defended that that was my Hong Kong ID to two supervisors after that. After a long discussion, they asked for our passports instead. Minutes of scrutiny passed, and the supervisor asked which page our visas are located. She did not recognize my Consular Corps ID nor our visas issued by the Chinese Embassy, so they ended up asking me to pay the HKD375 vaccination fee like a nonresident whereas it should have been free. I figured that was not going to be the last time we are availing health services here so I decided to email the Department of Health to clarify the issue. The health center issued me an apology and a check as reimbursement after that.
With a check at hand, I was forced to open my first account here. Mr. Diplomat and I decided to open it at a branch in Central, whose employees should be more familiar with the Consular Corps ID. The account executive at HSBC Pacific Place knows the identity card indeed! However, because our proof of billing address are all under Mr. Diplomat’s name, we have to establish that we are married and living under the same roof. (My next thought was, What if we are an unmarried gay couple living under the same roof? Does that mean I cannot open an account?) To save ourselves the hassle of going back again just to bring our marriage license, Mr. Diplomat pointed out that our passports indicate that I am his wife. The supervisor rejected our passport information as they were not issued by their government. Mr. Diplomat was in disbelief! Our diplomatic passports underwent scrutiny by the Chinese Embassy and their Immigration Department, and there was this supervisor telling us they were no good?! Your government recognizes our diplomatic passports and you dare question them?! Can you imagine if they questioned the integrity of the passport of a Consul General in the same manner? That would have cost him his job and would have made front page in the South China Morning Post! As diplomatic as he can be, Mr. Diplomat explained that they may also refer to our visas as well as the identity cards, both of which are issued by their government, like what they wanted, and both of which indicated that I am his wife, if only they read our documents carefully. Obviously, despite the fact that they know that the Consular Corps ID is a kind of Hong Kong ID, they do not completely grasp its significance nor do they understand what diplomatic means as indicated in our passports. If they do, they would have treated us with more respect as others would.
Besides the immigration officers of the Hong Kong International Airport and the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, the only other employees who readily recognized our Consular Corps IDs were the supervisor of 1010 Wan Chai (1010 is a premium telecommunications company here.) and the account executives of the investment management firm Fidelity International. I am assuming that the employees of the Immigration Department are also aware of the Consular Corps ID, but I have not been there personally to put it to test.
Diplomats are not asked to pay for Consular Corps IDs, and I completely understand that, as part of protecting our identities, our personal information cannot be stored on any chip that can be accessed by a scanner. However, this can easily be resolved by producing a Consular Corps ID that looks exactly like the typical smart identity card sans the chip, right? Now that is something I would gladly pay even HKD300 for.
For those who are unaware, here is a broader understanding of the Hong Kong ID as lifted from the Legislative Council Web site.
The Card and Its Contents
Identity cards have been issued in Hong Kong since 1949. The content has changed over time, with both additions and deletions…
A number of categories of card exist, and the data held on the card, the database and the microfilm archive varies between these categories. The total number on issue is about 7.2 million, and about 500,000 are issued or re-issued each year. The primary categories are:
depending on the person’s residence rights and current residence:
• Permanent ID Card (PIC), for persons with right of abode (which has a green background, and bears a statement that the person has right of abode in Hong Kong). 6.5 million are on issue, and c. 400,000 are issued or re-issued each year;
• ID Card (IC), for other persons resident in Hong Kong (which is readily distinguishable from the PIC because it has a pink background, and does not contain a statement about ‘right of abode in Hong Kong’). About 700,000 are on issue, and about 130,000 are issued or re-issued each year;
• Overseas Permanent ID Card (OPIC) for persons with right of abode residing overseas and applying for the card in connection with the issue of a HKSAR passport (the card has the word ‘ISSUED OVERSEAS’ printed in red on the card face). About 22,000 are on issue, and about 500 are issued each year;
• Consular Corps ID Card (CCIC) for consuls, consular staff and their dependents (the card has a unique format). About 5,000 are on issue, and about 500 are issued or re-issued each year.From www.legco.gov.hk