‘I believe I am the first Somali in the world to become Chinese’Ali Mohamed Ali is an interesting man.
Since 2003, Ali, a businessman by profession, has been translating for Somali refugees or asylum seekers who live in Hong Kong. “I have to translate their story to immigration: most often they seek asylum from ethnic clan persecution or terrorism, like al-Shabab,” Ali told the South China Morning Post.
Then in 2009, the 47-year-old of two young children became a Chinese citizen. “I believe I am the first Somali in the world to ‘become Chinese,'” he told the newspaper. “That’s what the Somali embassy in Beijing told me when I handed them back my passport.”
After he renounced his Somali citizenship, Ali was given a permanent resident status in Hong Kong and home return permit, a travel document that allows Hong Kong and Macau residents to travel freely to the mainland.
“Somali passports are not easy to travel on, so I didn’t mind [renouncing Somali citizenship],” he said.
Ali said he went to Canada last year and the immigration officer there could not believe this a Somali man had a Chinese citizenship.
“This is bizarre, bizarre …,” the immigration officer said three times, looking at Ali’s documents.
“I was the first Somali he’d seen holding an [Hong Kong] passport,” Ali said.
In 2013, Ali married his childhood friend, Naima.
“I have known my wife, Naima, all my life,” he said. “We grew up in the same neighborhood and went to primary school together.”
“I could not marry a Chinese woman; Somali men must marry another Somali.”