Qing Dynasty: Part 2
China never had a citizenship law until the Qing Dynasty’s citizenship law of 1909, during the reign of the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Xuantong. The first immigration law stipulated: “When foreigners want to apply for Chinese citizenship, their applications may be approved.” But there were five requirements.
“Potential citizens must have lived in China for over 10 years; must be over 20 years old; must have followed their former country’s national laws; must have good character; must have financial support or skills from which they can make a living; and must give up their original nationality after Chinese naturalization according to their national laws.”
If these five requirements can’t be met, they may still immigrate under the following conditions: “When foreigners or stateless persons have unique accomplishments in China, though not meeting the above-mentioned first four requirements, their naturalization applications may be approved if they are jointly recommended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
“In addition, people belonging to the following three categories may also obtain Chinese nationality: First, foreign women or stateless women who are married to Chinese; second, foreigners with Chinese stepfathers who they live together with. Third, illegitimate sons of Chinese and foreigners can directly obtain Chinese citizenship. However, foreign women who marry Chinese must “have a formal wedding and complete registration.”
Related laws imposed some restrictions on newly naturalized Chinese citizens. First, they were prohibited from working with the Grand Council and the Department of the Imperial Household, or being granted an honorary title above Mandarin of the Fourth Degree. Second, they were unable to hold military office, or serve as a soldier. Third, they couldn’t serve as a member of the Upper House, the House of Commons, or any provincial Consultative Council.
“All those who apply for naturalization shall declare they will abide by Chinese law and give up the rights they held under their former country’s laws after they are naturalized Chinese citizens.” In addition to a written statement, they needed two prestigious gentlemen to serve as guarantors. The application would be submitted by the local magistrate to the Ministry of Civil Affairs for approval and publication. And finally, a “permit shall be issued.”
If applying for Chinese citizenship overseas, the application would be submitted to the Chinese ambassador directly, or through a local consul, and then referred to the Ministry of Civil Affairs for registration and processing. After these formalities were completed, the Qing government would then regard the applicant as a Chinese national.
Related article: Some Foreigners Who Served the Chinese Emperors in the Qing Dynasty