City tells residents they must give up their hukou – which confers a number of rights – if they also have the right to live abroad permanently
Shanghai has become the first mainland city to enforce a ban on its registered citizens from holding permanent residency in other countries – for example the US green card.
The new rule was announced on the municipal public security authority’s website earlier this month and said Chinese citizens “settling down abroad or obtaining other nationalities” should report to the police to revoke their permanent residency, which is known as hukou.
Holding a hukou conveys a number of rights on householders, for instance access to social welfare services and local schools.
Once lost or surrendered, it is very difficult to regain.
The Shanghai Permanent Residency Management Rule which will be effective from May 1, states that those who have not already revoked the hukou should tell the relevant authorities.
It adds that people who refuse to revoke their hukou or do not go to the police station to revoke it within one month of being given police notice will have their registration forcibly terminated by the police.
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China had already banned its citizens from holding dual nationality, but since 2003 regulations have required people who are planning to move abroad permanently to revoke their local household registration.
But the rule has rarely been implemented, and the new announcement from Shanghai has triggered concerns that the authorities are getting serious in enforcing the rule.
A Shanghai-based financial industry executive, who has hukou in the city and is also a US green card holder, criticised the new policy.
“It will bring a lot of inconvenience to my life since I live in Shanghai,” she said on condition of anonymity.
“In future if they revoke my hukou, I will have many concerns if I need to return to China.”
Shanghai is the first city to make a serious attempt to enforce the regulations. Photo: Reuters
It is an open secret that many mainlanders still retain their Chinese nationality and hukou after getting foreign nationality or permanent residency.
For those that live in China many aspects of everyday life – from buying houses and opening bank accounts, to registering in hotels or buying train tickets – are far easier if they provide a mainland identity card or hukou rather than using foreign documentation.
A statement from Shanghai police issued on the microblog Weibo reminded residents that the law was not new, but said the new policy was the first to include details about how it would be enforced.
But a police officer at Shanghai’s Putuo district police bureau who deals with hukou affairs said she did not know how to implement the new rule since she hasn’t received any guidance from the municipal police authority.
“Many people called to ask about this issue. I can only say that before May, if they have a foreign green card, theoretically, they should take the initiative by reporting to police to give up their hukou,” said the officer, who refused to give her name.
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An account manager at the Shanghai-based immigration consulting company Visas said she had received a number of inquiries about the new rule and said the company was waiting for details about how it would be implemented.
“I told my clients this rule is actually not new. But in the past, no government department has been checking whether you have a green card and have hukou at the same time,” said the woman, who is surnamed Wang.
Jiang Junlu, a partner at Beijing-based law firm King & Wood Mallesons, said it was not appropriate for Shanghai to force its residents with foreign residency to forsake their hukou.
“A green card means they have the right to live abroad permanently. But some don’t in reality do that,” he said. “This is against its drive to attract international talent, especially those professionals originating from China.”
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Tony Liu, a Chinese citizen with a Beijing hukou and permanent residency in Australia, said he feared Beijing would follow Shanghai’s example.
According to mainland laws, overseas Chinese whose hukou have been revoked can resume their household registry, but it is well known that the process is complicated.
Liu said he expected it to be difficult for him to regain his hukou in future.
“If this policy is extended across the country, it would leave Chinese citizens with no place to register their residency in China. Isn’t that in conflict with the constitution since I am still a Chinese citizen?” said Liu, who works and lives in Sydney.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Shanghai tells green card holders to give up hukou