Action on dual citizenship sought
Lawmakers have warned it is time to take action over the growing problem of mainlanders illegally holding dual citizenship.
The dual-nationality debate heated up after a Xinhua report made an unusual reference to the wife of Chongqing's embattled former party chief Bo Xilai as Bo-Gu Kailai, fuelling speculation she may secretly have obtained foreign citizenship.
Bo's wife is usually referred to as Gu Kailai in media reports. The addition of a husband's surname to a woman's name has become rare on the mainland but is common in Hong Kong and among Chinese living abroad.
Many mainlanders who moved abroad and acquired foreign passports after China began opening up had retained their Chinese citizenship, which is against Chinese law, members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress said at a session on Thursday. They said it caused problems when it came to population policies and within the justice system.
By law, a Chinese national automatically loses his citizenship once he takes foreign citizenship. In reality many holders of foreign passports still use their identity card when returning to the mainland, and their permanent residence registration is still valid with the police, Xinhua quoted NPC deputy Chen Yiyu as saying.
Some who had applied at consulates abroad to give up their Chinese nationality after acquiring a foreign passport remained Chinese citizens on police records because the foreign ministry had failed to pass on the information, said Jin Shuoren, another NPC deputy.
A People's Daily article this month said that dual nationality was being used by some corrupt cadres to make it easier to hide illicit payments. Moving bribes abroad and 'secretly acquiring foreign citizenship or dual nationality' was a new challenge for the Communist Party's battle against corruption, the article said.
Professor Gong Shaopeng, of the China Foreign Affairs University, said statistics on how many mainlanders hold dual nationality were not available because there was no database holding records about border crossings and foreign citizenship.
Many people do not file an application to cancel their Chinese citizenship when acquiring foreign nationality, he said, because 'on the one hand, dual nationality is legal in the country they now live in, and on the other, Chinese citizenship is more convenient if one day they return'.
Despite the lawmakers' concerns, there have been calls for China to recognise dual citizenship.
Wang Huiyao, director of the Centre for China and Globalisation, said that allowing dual citizenship would not only help attract investment, talent and technology from abroad, but would encourage overseas Chinese to defend China's interests. They could also leave assets on the mainland if allowed to retain Chinese nationality.
He said more than 1.9 million mainlanders had gone abroad to work or study since 1978, and fewer than one third had returned.
The number of Chinese adults who say they would like to move to the United States, according to a Gallup survey