National People’s Congress delegate/tycoon has foreign citizenship

It seems that Sun Xiang, a delegate to the Hebei Provincial People’s Congress and all-around rich guy (worth around $1.1 billion in 2015), is a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis.

A photo included with the anonymous Weibo post appears to show a valid St. Kitts and Nevis passport issued to National People’s Congress delegate Sun Xiang. From @说话的石 on Weibo

His dual citizenship appears to have been confirmed in a brief announcement from the Tangshan Municipal People’s Congress, which said the matter was under investigation.

The question is, what will they do about it? Let’s assume Sun does in fact have foreign citizenship. People’s Congress delegates must be citizens of the PRC. What does the law say about this? Many people know by now that China does not recognize dual citizenship (see Article 3 of the Nationality Law: “中华人民共和国不承认中国公民具有双重国籍”), but what that means concretely is not self-evident just from the principle. We have to look at what the Nationality Law says.

Article 9 says, “Chinese citizens who reside abroad and voluntarily obtain foreign citizenship automatically lose their Chinese citizenship” (定居外国的中国公民,自愿加入或取得外国国籍的,即自动丧失中国国籍) Automatically. There is nothing about having to apply or get permission. In fact, I know of no law or regulation that requires Chinese citizens to inform the Chinese government that they have taken out foreign citizenship (please correct me in the comments if you know of one) — and of course, many don’t, because retaining the Chinese passport can make life a lot simpler. But failing to notify the government and keeping your passport does not mean you’re still a citizen; it just means you’re still successfully pretending to be a citizen.

Given Article 3 of the Nationality Law, there is no question that under Chinese law, Sun does not have dual citizenship. He is a citizen of either China or St. Kitts and Nevis.The government could boot him from the People’s Congress on the grounds that he lost his Chinese citizenship under Article 9 of the Nationality Law the moment he became a St. Kitts citizen. One could make an argument that he never lost citizenship under Article 10 because he didn’t fulfill the first condition, that of “residing abroad”. (I would be very surprised to hear that he actually spent any time in St. Kitts.) In that case, he is still a Chinese citizen and China simply ignores that fact that St. Kitts considers him a citizen. In that case, he has not to my knowledge committed any legal offense, although the failure to inform anyone of his taking out St. Kitts citizenship is a disciplinary offense under People’s Congress rules.

It will be interesting if the government decides that he lost his Chinese citizenship automatically under Article 9. Consider the case of Huseyincan Celil. Celil is a Uyghur and former Chinese citizen who voluntarily obtained Canadian citizenship after residing in Canada. Yet China has refused to recognize his Canadian citizenship. If the government finds that Sun, who was probably not a bona fide resident of St. Kitts, automatically loses his citizenship under Article 9, it really has no argument that Celil did not a fortiori lose his. But of course the Chinese government has never deigned to respond to arguments about what its own law requires in the Celil case.