China's Ministry of Public Security has announced a new policy to support reporting of Chinese dual citizens. A dual citizen is someone who accepts citizenship in another country while keeping his or her first citizenship. The new policy has led to a sharp debate. It is expected to have a major effect on Chinese citizens who live outside of China.
The Ministry of Public Security published rules for reporting Chinese who have foreign citizenship but keep their Chinese identity cards and benefits.
The new policy is directed at so called "naked" officials. These are public servants who have family and property in countries other than China. The officials could use these family members and businesses to hide illegal earnings. There are believed to be thousands of such "naked" officials.
Luo Bin is the president of Robinson Immigration Consultants in Canada. He praises the new policy.
"With China's economy developing, to a certain extent there has been a series of problems such as economic corruption. The Chinese government now is fully aware of the seriousness of those problems. Though the strict implementation of single citizenship, I think they are doing right to prevent corrupt officials or criminals from fleeing abroad or transferring assets."
However, corrupt officials who are hiding money in other countries are a minority. Most of the Chinese who have taken dual citizenship have not been linked to corruption. They took dual citizenship for family and work reasons.
Mr. Luo thinks that the new policy could cause some dual citizens to lose their financial benefits.
"Many Chinese retired after 20 or 30 years of work. So their concern is, once they obtain foreign citizenship, whether such accumulated pensions and other benefits in China will be reserved."
Chinese demand for dual citizenship has increased in recent years. Expert Tong Zhuwei says the issue is complex. He is a professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law.
"On the other hand, dual citizenship is beneficial to individuals, namely the many overseas Chinese who study and do business abroad. By keeping dual citizenship, they do not need to go through the whole visa application [process], and they can enjoy the rights and benefits offered by both countries."
But the professor notes Chinese government concerns about dual citizenship.
"For example, when a Chinese [citizen] who holds an American passport commits a crime, or has confrontation with the Chinese government, in case he or she is detained or tried in China, the Chinese government will have to inform and work with the U.S. on his case. This is not only a cumbersome process, but also gives foreign countries excuses to interfere with China's internal affairs."
The legalization of dual citizenship does not appear to be among the Chinese government's main goals. Some people are asking officials to expand China's "green card" program. The program permits foreign citizens to live and work inside China.