Allan Zeman Gives Up Canadian Nationality for Chinese

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Allan ZemanNov. 3 – Allan Zeman, the well known Hong Kong-based billionaire responsible for the development of the city’s Lan Kwai Fong area, has renounced his Canadian citizenship and become a naturalized Chinese citizen.

Zeman, who sold his Colby International sourcing business to Li & Fung several years ago, and who made his name in the Hong Kong property market by buying up the then cheap areas around Lan Kwai Fong in the early 1980’s then turning it into an entertainment district in the heart of the city, is currently the chairman of the government-owned Ocean Park facility and has long been involved with Hong Kong and China business investments and governmental consultation. He made the decision because, he says, he “has lived in Hong Kong for 38 years and always considered the city my home.” His government involvement has become increasingly active as a mentor to Chinese officials regarding business affairs since he sold his stake in Colby. “It’s time to solidify my beliefs,” Zeman said. “I really want to be a Hong Kong citizen. I think that if you are working for the government, on behalf of the government, on behalf of its citizens, you should really have a local passport.”

Chris Devonshire-Ellis, senior partner of Dezan Shira & Associates says: “I have known Allan for many years, and not many people know he gave me a lot of advice and support when I was setting up Dezan Shira & Associates back in the early 1990s. He continues to be a bit of a mentor for me, and I know that he has always had the interests of Hong Kong and China at heart. His decision is brave, responsible and typically generous and may well signal a trend that other well placed international executives may consider.”

Zeman is the second key high-profile expatriate figure in Hong Kong to take Chinese citizenship; Mike Rowse, the then British national running the government’s Invest Hong Kong division, famously took Chinese nationality just after the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Devonshire-Ellis: “I saw Mike just three weeks ago at the Consulegis legal event in Hong Kong we both spoke at, and he was telling me his citizenship now extends to visa free access to over 120 different countries. Clearly, becoming naturalized Chinese is now more of an option than ever before. I sure we’ll see a lot more of it in the future.”