Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When is an American a Chinese national?

A Mr. Vincent Wu is being charged with 10 serious criminal charges in Guangzhou.  What attracts quite a lot of attention in this case is not the charges themselves.  But rather his nationality. He is being charged as a Chinese national. According to some news reports, it is because he entered mainland China earlier using his Hong Kong resident’s home-return card. He is also a US citizen with a US passport.  But China does not recognize dual citizenship, and he is now charged as a Chinese national.  

According to news reports, Wu left China in the late 1970s as a stowaway to Hong Kong, where he obtained residency.  He moved with his family to the US in 1994 and eventually became a US citizen.  Since then he has spent most of his time in China.  

Many Chinese people from Hong Kong are in a similar situation regarding citizenship.  They have immigrated to Canada, USA, Australia, etc., acquired citizenship and a foreign passport.  They have similarly returned to Hong Kong, and often travel to China using a home-return permit.  They could apply for a visa to enter China, using their foreign passport.  It is, unfortunately, more expensive and less convenient.  

However, when they get into trouble, would they also be charged as Chinese nationals?  Most likely yes.  Would their foreign nationality and passport give them any protection?  Probably not.  They did enter China using a home-return permit, which presumes Chinese nationality. 

Would their situation be different if they had traveled to mainland China with their foreign passport?  

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