Resentment stirs online after catering guru gives up Chinese citizenship

Ordinary people are asking why the rich and powerful are so keen for a ticket out of China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:13am


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The recent revelation that catering guru Zhang Lan gave up her Chinese citizenship has sparked heated public discussion about the nation's rich fleeing China.

Zhang is chairwoman of South Beauty, a Beijing-based restaurant group famous for its Sichuan cuisine. She was found to have given up her citizenship in September after being subpoenaed for a civil lawsuit involving a man claiming to be one of her company's founders, according to a report by China Central Television, which cited an unidentified source with a court in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

However, it was unclear what citizenship Zhang now holds.

Wang Xiaofei, Zhang's son and the president of South Beauty, said in a blog post on Tuesday his mother was not trying to avoid appearing in court for the lawsuit, which focuses on a dispute over property that was allegedly promised by Zhang to the plaintiff. Wang said his mother was recovering from knee surgery in Shanghai and was not avoiding contact with the former employee.

Zhang has often said she turned down a chance to obtain Canadian citizenship 21 years ago, after living there for two years. She opted instead to return to Beijing to open a restaurant, which later grew to become the South Beauty Group.

For the public, news of Zhang giving up her citizenship has rehashed long-standing resentment about the country's rich and powerful securing foreign passports, even though they continue to do business in China or hold important roles in politics.

Zhang was selected last November as a member of the Chaoyang District People's Political Consultative Conference.

One internet user with an IP address from Canada wrote on the 163.com news portal that "The rich are leaving China like rats deserting a sinking ship".

Another commenter on the site said the government should reflect on why so many people want to leave the country after becoming wealthy.

A survey published last November by the Bank of China and wealth-researcher Hurun Report found more than half of China's millionaires were either considering emigrating or were already in the application process, with the US the top destination.