Date
22 August 2017
A US immigration banner is seen at an overseas investment promotion fair in Shanghai. Even as they seek greener pastures abroad, many mainlanders seek to hold on to their Chinese citizenship.
A US immigration banner is seen at an overseas investment promotion fair in Shanghai. Even as they seek greener pastures abroad, many mainlanders seek to hold on to their Chinese citizenship.

Why Chinese won’t give up citizenship despite foreign residency

Under Chinese law, Beijing does not recognize dual nationality. If a Chinese citizen secures permanent residency in a foreign country, he is required to report to a local public security bureau in the mainland and have his household registration (hukou) cancelled.

Is that a problem? One may think giving up Chinese nationality shouldn’t be a bother when someone obtains residency in a place such as the United States, Australia or Western Europe. But the issue is not so simple, and can indeed become a problem, if a person needs to stay in China after he acquires citizenship in a foreign country.

This is especially true at a time when almost all members of the nation’s super-rich class are heading overseas but they still need to look after their businesses at home.

Thus it’s not surprising that many people, especially entrepreneurs, who acquire foreign nationality try their best to keep it a secret back home if they want to continue to spend considerable amount of time in China.

The benefits are obvious if you can retain your Chinese nationality. One thing is to avert red tape. The country imposes an entirely different system for foreign citizens on various things. The list includes extra information when booking an air-ticket, different rules with regard to social security contribution or buying a home. Without a hukou you are deprived of the eligibility for public welfare like public school admissions or getting reimbursed for medical expenses.

Some mainland parents who had their children born in Hong Kong but seek to raise the kids on the mainland will have to face exorbitant tuition for sending their kids to international schools because the kids are not entitled to go to government-funded public schools due to their Hong Kong permanent resident status. 

Given the problems, the “foreigners” want to keep their rights to social welfare and public services in the mainland, just like their Chinese compatriots do.

Since there is no common database to share related information on nationality status changes, Chinese authorities may never know if a person who has acquired citizenship overseas chooses not to report his case.

This situation has also resulted in some corrupt Communist Party cadres having their feet both in China and some foreign country.

Deutsche Welle reports that the Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for nationality and hukou affairs, has set up designated hotlines and a website for people to report related offenses.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]

RC

EJ Insight writer

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