Witness #10 | Jennifer*
My name is Jennifer, and I am in a precarious situation where my mother and sister are Malaysians but I am not. My mother, Madam Lee, married a man from Hong Kong and gave birth to my sister, Elaine, in Malaysia, and obtained Elaine’s citizenship by the law of the land. My mother then followed my father to Hong Kong for his work, and I was born in Hong Kong on 18 June 1998. I am now 23 years old. As we did not come from a family of means, my mother was unable to afford the cost to return to Malaysia to give birth. As a result, I cannot become a Malaysian automatically because Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses cannot confer citizenship to their children born overseas. Hence, my mother was forced to obtain Hong Kong citizenship for me.
My mother has suffered emotional, physical, and financial abuse throughout her marriage, since 1995. Unfortunately, my sister was not spared from physical abuse from him as well. When my sister Elaine was due to start tertiary education, my mother convinced my father to let Elaine study in Malaysia, given the quality of education.
In 2016 it was my turn where I, too, came to Malaysia with my mother, and my father financed my sister’s education as well as mine. I could only secure a student visa for a year and had to return to Hong Kong once the visa expired, where my father also said he needed more time to find funds for me to continue my studies. However, his business suffered badly and so did his character. Shortly after I returned, he kicked me out of the home for financial reasons, which forced me to live on my own for five months in Hong Kong. It was a dark period, and when my mother and sister could put together their meagre savings, I quickly came back to Malaysia. Since then, I have been on a student visa.
In April 2021, I completed my degree and, along with it, my student visa expired on 15 June 2021. I was unable to find a job in Malaysia amidst the economic setbacks of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and the situation was exacerbated because of my status as a non-citizen. Out of a lack of choice and after thorough surveys of various universities, I enrolled in a Master’s programme in Business Administration at HELP University so that I can still have a student visa to stay on in Malaysia. The visa expires in August 2023.
It is a frustrating situation where I would rather work instead of pursuing postgraduate studies, given my mother and sister’s situation. My mother, sister and I are deeply concerned about me having to return to Hong Kong with the pandemic raging there, and without familial support. My parents finalised their divorce on 17 December 2019, and we have been estranged from my father ever since.
My mother filed an application for citizenship for me on 19 May 2016, when I was 18 years old and still met the age criteria. Today, over five years later, we have yet to receive a response from the Government. We have attempted to follow up in person and via email with the relevant offices in Putrajaya, and have written letters to the Ministry of Home Affairs, but to no avail.
Unfortunately, I am now over the age criteria of 21 years. The Government may deny me citizenship because of my current age, as witnessed in other cases and despite meeting the age criteria at the date of submission of the application. Although a child of a Malaysian, I was not provided with ‘permanent residence’ while awaiting citizenship.
This delayed response to the application for citizenship, as well as the discrimination in the Malaysian Constitution against my mother’s gender, places me in a volatile environment, where my security is at risk. The only difference between my sister and me is the place of our birth. Elaine, my sister, was born in Malaysia and therefore has Malaysian citizenship. Meanwhile, because I was born outside Malaysia, I have been deprived of its citizenship and have been forced into a tumultuous and mentally exhausting situation where I am unsure of my future, or if I will be torn from my family.