Fan Yi became a Canadian citizen, and had to give up her Chinese citizenship. Sherry Han Photo.

A CITIZEN’S LESSON IN LOSS

By SHERRY HAN

Last summer, Fan Yi, 23, was sworn in with a group of new Canadian citizens, holding her fist to her chest as she recited the country’s anthem.

“Oh Canada, our home and native land.”

With the melodious Canadian National Anthem in her ears, the judge congratulated the new Canadians. However, Yi needed to screw up her courage for this moment, because she was also giving up her Chinese citizenship.

“Like all Chinese, the patriotic feeling is something very natural to me,” she said. “At that moment, when I sign my name on the paper, I feel like I betrayed the country where I was born. That’s sad.”

The Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China explicitly stipulates that, “The People’s Republic of China does not recognize dual nationality for any Chinese national.” That is to say, once a Chinese citizen settles abroad and volunteers to join the foreign nationality, she would immediately lose her Chinese nationality.

In 2010, Yi’s family immigrated to Canada to seek opportunities for a better education. Naturalization was an issue for Yi to consider.

Long accustomed to a free and easy life in a foreign land, Yi decided to become a long-term resident and citizen of Canada.

“It’s a really tough decision. If I become a Canadian citizen, I can get a Canadian passport allows a visa-free access to many cities. But returning home would be troublesome,” Yi said.

She justified the decision because she knew she could obtain a 10-year visa to visit China, so she started to do the paperwork and became a Canadian citizen last summer. She could use her visa to visit and stay in touch with family members in China.

There are more 90 countries around the world that recognize dual citizenship. China is one of the few countries that still has legal terms prohibiting dual citizenship.

Now there are more and more voices calling for the recognition of dual nationality.

Lilian Lin thinks China should allow dual nationality. For her children’s education, she came to Canada six years ago.

“For many investment immigrants, it has limited them to develop their future business activities,” Lin said.

Lin owns a computer accessories company in China. For her, the loss of Chinese nationality will cause various inconveniences.

“It will become difficult to take care of my enterprise and properties,” Lin said.

Lin thinks that allowing dual nationality is conducive to attracting capital and advanced technology, and the exchange of human talents, under the background of global economic integration, whereas allowing dual nationalities won’t stop talents or assets from being washed away.

Huiyao Wang, the director of Center For China and Globalization (CCG), said that the fear of dual nationality comes from “identity,” namely, when the two countries are hostile to each other or do not have diplomatic relations, a dual citizens’ loyalty is hard to judge. Besides, national security, political participation, and personnel jurisdiction are also matters of concern. But he pointed out that various countries’ practice in concrete policy-making proved the feasibility of solving these issues.

“For China today, what does matter is how to handle the relationship with the neighboring countries, in particular with the Southeast Asian countries.” Wang said. “There are still those overseas Chinese, so the problem will remain if dual nationality is recognized.”

However, with more and more younger generation Chinese studying abroad, the debate surrounding dual citizenship is mainly about the worries around keeping talents and wealth.

Yi experienced that turning point; she knows it’s hard to go back right now, so she wants people to be more careful in considering being a Canadian citizen.

“Going abroad can expand your vision, facilitate your study and development, and enhance the value of yourself. However, it should never be the reason for you to despise your own country,“ Yi said.

Although Yi is no longer a Chinese citizen by law, she still thinks that it is important to keep a warm Chinese heart.

“Like a line in the lyrics, ‘Although I wear different clothes, my heart is still the same Chinese heart.’ The Chinese culture is so profound. You are a Chinese, no matter where you are, if tears well up at the sight of a Five-Star Red Flag,” Yi said.