Translated by Donaldson Tan
This is a non-verbatim translation of Zaobao report 《坡公民权被拒 在港出世少年申请司法检讨》 by Zheng Jing-Yu dated 29 November 2011.
Boy seeks judicial review after ICA rejected his application to renounce Singapore citizenship
The Immigration & Checkpoint Authority (ICA) has rejected the application of Zhang Junyi to denounce his Singapore citizenship, citing that he is not yet a legal adult. In addition, the ICA also reminded Zhang Junyi of his National Service obligation when he becomes 18 year-old. In response, Zhang sought a judicial review on ICA’s decision.
Zhang Junyi filed his application with the Supreme Court through his father Zhang Shaowei. Zhang Junyi was represented by lawyer Lee Jing Xiong who asked the Supreme Court to review the decision of the ICA and the Ministry of Defence on Zhang Junyi’s case.
Zhang Junyi urged the Court to rule that he is eligible to renounce his Singapore citizenship, he doesn’t qualify for national service, and that his notice to the ICA last year which declared his intention to renounce citizenship is valid.
Zhang Junyi is due for National Service registration soon. He is currently on an exit permit which cleared him for overseas studies. The exit permit will expire on 30 December 2011. The law requires males eligible for National Service to register with the Ministry of Defence when they turn 16.5 years old.
Zhang Junyi’s parents Zhang Shaowei and Liang Jiali emigrated to Singapore in January 1996. They converted to Singapore citizenship, along with Zhang Junyi’s 2 elder sisters. 2 months after gaining citizenship, they moved to Hongkong.
Zhang Junyi was borned in Hongkong 3 months after his family moved there. Subsequently, Zhang Junyi was granted Singapore citizenship the following Febraury. He lived in Hongkong until he returned to Singapore in 2005 at the age of 10 years to study.
In August 2010, Zhang Junyi applied to Hongkong Department of Immigration to restore his Chinese citizenship. Although the Department accepted his application, it was conditional that he relinquishes his Singapore citizenship. 4 months later, Zhang Junyi notified the ICA of his intention to renouce his Singapore citizenship.
However. the ICA rejected his application, citing Section 1, Article 128 of the Singapore Constitution that a citizen can only give up his citizenship when he is above 21 years old and that parents may not make such a decision for the child. The ICA also added that according to Section 2, Article 128 of the Singapore Constitution, Zhang Junyi is obligated to complete his National Service as long as he remains a Singapore citizen.
The Central Manpower Base (CMPB) proposed that Zhang Junyi should postpone his application for change of citizenship until he has turned 21 years old and that he has completed his National Service. CMPB will consider his application.
In response, Zhang Junyi described the constitutional interpretation of the ICA and the CMPB as “illogical and unfair”, citing 3 points. Firstly, the Singapore citizenship was imposed on him because his parents emigrated to Singapore.
Secondly, he is not a 100% citizen because he will only be accorded with full citizenship rights as soon as he relinquishes other citizenships he holds within a year after he turned 21 years old. As such, the aforementioned constitutional provisions are irrelevant.
Thirdly, the Enlistment Act does not apply on him because he was less than 16 years old when he first declared his intention to ICA to renounce his Singapore citizenship.
The Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) was notified of the application for judicial review in the middle of November by Zhang Junyi’s lawyer Mr Lee Jing Xiong. The pre-trial conference starts today.
Expert: “Interesting” Judicial Review
Constitutional law expert Dr Kevin Tan told Zaobao this would be an “interesting” judicial review. He also pointed out that the Courts rarely take on cases which involve citizenship rights because very few people would submit such issues to the Courts.
He also added that Zhang Junyi may not succeed in securing a judicial review because both the ICA and the CMPB did not act wilfully or irregularly, and they did not exceed their jurisdictions.
Dr Kevin Tan said that Article 128 of the Singapore Constitution appears absolute and that only Singaporeans above the age of 21 are eligible to renounce their citizenship.
Few days ago, Minster of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen revealed in Parliament 8800 sons of new immigrants had been enlisted for National Service over the last five years. Among them, 6100 (70%) opted to become Singapore citizens.
However, among second-generation permanent residents, 4200 gave up their permanent residency over the same period. In another words, for every three sons of permanent residents, two would enlist while one would give up his permanent residency status in order to forgo national service.