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China doesn't recognize dual citizenship.

What are the practical consequences today if a Chinese citizen also acquires the citizenship of another country, but does not formally renounce their Chinese citizenship? In particular, what happens upon entering/exiting China? Is the ban on dual citizenship enforced, or is this situation mostly ignored? I assume there are Chinese people who do acquire another citizenship anyway.

Is there actually a ban on acquiring another citizenship, or does "not recognize dual citizenship" simply mean that China is going to ignore the other one, e.g. the person couldn't get consular protection from the other country while in China?

This question is more out of curiosity than anything else.

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    "e.g. the person couldn't get consular protection from the other country while in China?" -- note that this is generally the case anyway, even when dual nationality is recognised. Most countries don't offer consular services to their citizens in countries where the person has dual citizenship. I suppose in extreme cases they might offer asylum, but of course they can also do that for someone who doesn't have their citizenship at all. Anyway it's up to the consular office what it does, it's not up to China to tell (e.g.) a French consular office in China whether someone is French or not. – Steve Jessop Jan 5 '15 at 10:18
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    @SteveJessop I guess you took it as a random example but France does in fact extend some protection to dual citizens (e.g. during evacuations, see p. 22). The problem is that the host state (China in your example) does not have to allow it or provide access under the relevant international conventions. That really is up to China and it is in fact the most important issue in this scenario. Consequently, official sources usually state that France “cannot” or “might not be able” to offer protection, not that it will routinely deny it. – Gala Jan 7 '15 at 1:04
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    Offering asylum on the other hand would make no sense at all. French citizens always have the right to enter and stay in France and France traditionally categorically refuses to extradite its own citizens (with the recent exception of the European Arrest Warrant procedure) so they never need any sort of special status to be allowed to remain in France. – Gala Jan 7 '15 at 1:06
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    @Gala: by asylum, I meant that the country might shelter its dual-citizen in its embassy from the Chinese government, in circumstances extreme enough. Of course you're right, if that person made it to France (or, if one insists that embassies are national territory, then to a part of France in which one can reside normally -- right to residence in France doesn't generally imply the right to set up home in a French embassy!), then the status of that person wouldn't be "asylum seeker", they'd be a resident national. – Steve Jessop Jan 7 '15 at 9:31
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In theory, Chinese dual citizenship is impossible (for adults who were only Chinese citizens at birth), since you automatically lose Chinese citizenship if you voluntarily receive another country's citizenship (Nationality law, Article 9).

In practice, though, if they don't know you have dual citizenship, they can't take it away either. This does complicate entering and exiting China considerably though, since if they bother to inspect it, a Chinese passport with no foreign visas will be a dead giveaway that you're up to no good, and in particular your visa status is checked if renewing a Chinese passport overseas. In the last year and half, there has been a bit of crackdown on this, and over 1 million dual nationals have apparently been busted and asked to give up their hukou.

The usual dodge is to enter/exit China using your Chinese passport via a third state, eg. Hong Kong, so you get your stamps, and only then switch to your second passport. Alternatively, you can use your non-Chinese passport to apply for a Chinese visa and enter/exit China, hoping they can't match up your two identities. But neither method is bulletproof.

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    "In theory, Chinese dual citizenship is impossible" In theory, it IS possible. Some situations: 1) A child born in China to a Chinese-citizen parent and a foreign national parent. According to Article 4 of the PRC nationality law, the child has Chinese nationality automatically at birth. The child may also have the other parent's nationality automatically at birth through jus sanguinis. – user102008 Jan 5 '15 at 5:21
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    2) A child born outside China to a Chinese-citizen parent who has not "settled abroad" and a foreign national parent. According to Article 5 of the PRC nationality law, the child has Chinese nationality automatically at birth. The child may also have the other parent's nationality automatically at birth through jus sanguinis. If the child is born in a jus soli country, the child will additionally have the nationality of that country automatically at birth. – user102008 Jan 5 '15 at 5:21
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    @jpatokal: "by Chinese law they have to pick one when they reach maturity" Nope. Find a Chinese law that says they have to "pick", or that anything will happen if they fail to "pick". – user102008 Jan 5 '15 at 19:27
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(Note: I am assuming that by China you are talking about the People's Republic of China (PRC). It's very different for the Republic of China (ROC).)

The word "recognize" means to treat something as if it exists or not. The precondition is that the thing exists. What's the point of "recognizing" or "not recognizing" something that doesn't exist?

China doesn't recognize dual citizenship.

You may be referring to Article 3 of the PRC Nationality Law, which says

The People's Republic of China does not recognize that Chinese citizens possess dual nationality.

What does this mean? To "not recognize" that this person possesses dual nationality, is to consider this person to not have dual nationality, even if this person does. But by calling this person a "Chinese citizen", it is recognizing this person's Chinese nationality, so it is the other (non-Chinese) nationalities that are "not recognized". In other words, if a person has Chinese nationality and foreign nationality at the same time, China only recognizes this person's Chinese nationality, and does not recognize the person's foreign nationality. If there weren't any Chinese citizens possessing dual nationality, then there wouldn't be any point in "recognizing" or "not recognizing" Chinese citizens possessing dual nationality, would there?

If you think about it, this is not different from basically how every country in the world operates -- if you are a dual national, and you are in the country of one of your nationalities, then that country will treat you the same as other nationals of that country. You should not get special treatment just because you have other nationalities -- hence, your dual nationality has no "recognition".

What are the practical consequences today if a Chinese citizen also acquires the citizenship of another country, but does not formally renounce their Chinese citizenship?

Legally, if a person is already a Chinese citizen, and they then voluntarily acquires a foreign nationality, they automatically lose Chinese nationality by Article 9 of the PRC Nationality Law. Whether or not they take any action, or whether or not the government takes any action, does not, legally, matter. The person is supposed to henceforth present themselves as a non-Chinese-national (e.g. apply for a visa to visit China, etc.).

In particular, what happens upon entering/exiting China? Is the ban on dual citizenship enforced, or is this situation mostly ignored?

First of all, since they have already lost Chinese nationality by operation of law, there is no "dual nationality" here. The person may potentially try to conceal the fact that they have lost Chinese nationality, and thus pretend they are still a Chinese citizen.

And yes, whether the person is pretending to be a Chinese citizen does come up upon entry/exit. For example, if a person flies directly from China to the country of one of his other nationalities, then the exit control will ask him for his document to enter that country. And this person's only documentation will also show him to be a national of that country, leading them to inquire how he obtained that nationality, leading them to find out that he acquired it voluntarily, and thus no longer has Chinese nationality. Or, if the person tries to renew his Chinese passport in the country of one of his nationalities, they will ask him for evidence of legal status in that country. And this person's only evidence will be evidence of nationality, leading again to the same inquiry.

Is there actually a ban on acquiring another citizenship

No country can "ban" acquiring other countries' nationalities. What would that even mean? For example, if smoking is banned, then if you smoke they can prosecute you. Does that mean they will prosecute you after you acquire another country's nationality? That would be absurd. Each country's nationality is solely determined by its own laws, so no other country can "ban" it.

In every country, there are circumstances when a person will, according to the law, have that country's nationality and another country's nationality at the same time.

or does "not recognize dual citizenship" simply mean that China is going to ignore the other one, e.g. the person couldn't get consular protection from the other country while in China?

As I've said above, "does not recognize Chinese citizens possess dual nationality" DOES mean that China will ignore the other one(s). However, that only applies to someone who really (legally) has dual nationality. If one has lost Chinese nationality automatically by voluntarily acquiring another nationality, then there is no Chinese nationality there to recognize in the first place.

You may wonder, who really has dual nationality of China and another country, according to the law (ignoring peculiarities with Hong Kong)? The dual nationality generally has to be gotten automatically at birth, because nationality at birth is involuntary. Here are some examples:

  1. A child born in China to a Chinese-citizen parent and a foreign national parent. According to Article 4 of the PRC nationality law, the child has Chinese nationality automatically at birth. The child may also have the other parent's nationality automatically at birth through jus sanguinis.

  2. A child born outside China to a Chinese-citizen parent who has not "settled abroad" and a foreign national parent. According to Article 5 of the PRC nationality law, the child has Chinese nationality automatically at birth. The child may also have the other parent's nationality automatically at birth through jus sanguinis. If the child is born in a jus soli country, the child will additionally have the nationality of that country automatically at birth.

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    I disagree that whether or not a law seems absurd to you changes whether or not a country could pass or enforce it. Some people might consider prosecuting people for smoking to be absurd. If you can see a reason why no country could prosecute someone for acquiring another citizenship, then give that reason. I think the better point to make is that the word "ban" is ambiguous. A country can create consequences, within its power to do so, for certain acts. There are many different types of consequences, and the relevant thing is which consequences they are, not if they constitute a "ban". – Dan Getz Jan 5 '15 at 12:59
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    Your answer is mostly theoretical. What I'm primarily interested in is what actually happens in practice when Chinese take another citizenship. It's clear that many try to conceal it and get away with it. The "letter of the law" is really much less relevant in these situations than practical enforcement, etc. – Alou Jan 5 '15 at 15:43

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