Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Overseas Chinese Nervous About the Cancellation of Household Registration Back Home

Hukou document from Wikipedia. CC: AT.

On March 21, 2018, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau announced a new policy banning dual citizenship.

The Shanghai Permanent Residency Management Rule, which requires mainland Chinese who acquired foreign nationality or took up residence in other countries to either cancel their resident registration or face the consequences of the hukou system, which becomes effective on May 1, 2018.

The hukou, or household registration system, goes hand in hand with certain rights, especially for residents of big cities, who can enjoy freedoms like electing their district representative, holding a bank account, purchasing local property at a lower rate, and accessing education and retirement pension. Many mainland Chinese who have bought property and migrated to other countries have not cancelled their hukou.

While the parameters of the policy are not yet clear, it appears that for those who fail to cancel their hukou, power reverts to the police, who would do a mandatory cancellation.

According to the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times, the new rule is to assist government’s anti-graft campaign as it would create another barrier blocking corrupt officials from leaving China.

But, as @FightEagle2017 pointed out on Twitter, the policy implication is a big deal for overseas Chinese:

[Mandatory cancellation of Chinese hukou] Recently Shanghai has become the first to announce the mandatory cancellation of household registration targeting overseas mainland Chinese. The policy would be implemented in other regions as well. Majority of [the dual citizenship holders] have properties and bank deposits inside China. They kept their Chinese ID card for their accounts. Once their hukou is cancelled, they can’t use their ID card. It is very difficult to hold property and bank accounts with foreign passports or green cards. Moreover, how could they keep their properties legally is another question.

People have been sharing their diverse opinions on Weibo, one of the most popular social media platforms in China. For those who support the policy, they regard dual citizenship as the equivalent of wanting to have your cake and eat it too:

都出国定居了,还不注销原所在地户口,这跟一个人有两个不同地址的身份证有什么分别??什么人能有这样的特权?为什么给他们这样的特权?

You have left the country and settled down in other countries, but you refuse to cancel your household registration. This is like carrying two ID cards with two different addresses. Why should some people enjoy such privilege?

没错,国外定居生活是没占据资源,但是你也没创造财富!吃喝拉撒全在国外,连一个子儿的税都收不了你的,参与的是别人国家的建设,并没有和大家一起同甘共苦,又凭什么要求保留国籍把坑占住?为的是骑墙两头押宝两头占好处吗,想的还真是周到。这对于忠诚于这片土地上的其他人来说简直是天大的不公平!

Yes, it is true that when they live in a foreign country, they don't draw on our resources, but they also have not created wealth! They spend money overseas and don’t have to pay taxes here. They participate in building other countries, but don't work with our own people. Why then, do they still keep their nationality and household registration? They just want to take all the benefits from both sides. This is unfair to those who are loyal to our land.

Those against the policy, meanwhile, are pointing out the difference between citizenship and nationality:

自己没能力出国居住的,请不要嘲笑别人。华人华侨很多是“身在国外心在汉”,很多也是在为国家做贡献,户口没了让人心寒吧。

Please don’t laugh at those who have the ability to settle outside China. Many overseas Chinese are still loyal to China and want to contribute to the country. The cancellation of hukou will chill their hearts.

出国定居拿绿卡又不是加入外国国籍了,只是一个长期居留签证而已。就好比我现在深圳住,拿了深圳居住证,那我老家能因此注销我户口吗?

Taking up residence outside China and getting a green card don't mean that I have changed my nationality. [The green card] is just a resident visa. It is similar to the resident document issued in Shenzhen; they cannot cancel my household registration back in my hometown.

出国的原因很多,有的也是为了谋生,就象从乡下到城里打工一样,最后要回国的,而且在国内还有资产,取消户籍没道理。当然加入外国国籍的取消户籍是合理的。

There are many reasons for leaving the country. Similar to rural peasants working in the cities, some people are just taking jobs. Eventually, they will return and still keep their property and assets back home. Of course, if the person has changed their nationality, it is reasonable to cancel their household registration.

The news has shaken overseas mainland Chinese communities, as the cancellation of hukou may imply that they might not be able to receive their retirement pension or sell properties they own. Many are also concerned that other big cities will follow in Shanghai's footsteps and ban dual citizenship.

Amidst this panic, the Shanghai public security department explained that the details of the policy have not yet been decided upon, since the authority is yet to provide a clear definition of what “taking residence in other countries” means. At this stage, those who live overseas but have not changed their nationality or acquired dual citizenship, appear to be exempt.

Still, the clarification is too vague and has failed to address people’s concerns. @dd201704 mocked the tone of the policy change:

Shanghai’s property prices were about to drop? The policy has been retracted… false alarm? The policy can change all of a sudden, today it is made public and people are in shock, then it's withdrawn. What will come next? Who will still dare to keep property in China? Many of my friends are planning to sell their property and withdraw money from the bank… just in case another round of land seizure [similar to the 1950 land reform] might happen.

There is also much speculation over the rationale behind the policy:

The policy concerning the cancellation of hukou would be a hard blow to those who get double benefit from their dual citizenship. However, the real intention is to make it more difficult for those who want to move their whole family and all their assets outside of China. If you decide to have your family migrate to another country, you have to cancel your hukou, and your property and bank accounts would have to be transferred to your extended family members to be taken care of. This will induce risk and it means that in the future, people will use the strategy of chain migration, leaving the country one by one instead of the whole family together.

The reason behind the hukou cancellation is the worsening of the economy — they want to cut the retirement pension for those who have left the country. The amount of pension received by those who have left the country is huge. Many people applied for early retirement before they left the country. The cancellation of their hukou would end up saving a lot. The social security system in many Western countries would not cover overseas citizens [unverified claim]; maybe China is following the practice. Such a policy is correct: if they are not living in China, the government does not need to be responsible for their social security.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site