The phrase “passports cut” has recently circulated on social media. However, some border inspection agencies have denied the rumors even after Twitter user Gao Jian posted a picture of a passport with a corner cut off by border police. 

Chinese citizens get their passport or green card corner clipped

Gao Jian was about to fly to Germany but his boarding pass was torn and leaving was no longer permitted. Together with the photo, he asked who said that customs does not cut passports. His post had nearly 1,700 retweets and over 6,200 likes at the moment of this report. 

Some netizens asked Gao Jian for the reason. He later posted the response from the authorities: they declared it invalid. They said it was not a tourist visa and they had the right to cut the corner of his passport. In the afternoon, the Luliang City National Security Detachment confirmed this statement. 

Many local departments, including the Luliang City Exit-Entry Administration and the Guangzhou Baiyun Airport Frontier Inspection Bureau, could not be reached. No one answered the phone.

According to some witnesses, officers also cut the corners off people’s passports and even the green cards of permanent residents of the United States.

A screenshot of a WeChat conversation has lately circulated on the internet. According to the chat record, a Chinese mother with an American green card was stopped at the border as she attempted to take her American citizen infant out of Guangzhou, China. Her green card was clipped. 

In a statement issued on May 13, Guangzhou Customs denied that one of its officers had cut the corner of a Chinese traveler’s U.S.-issued green card. Meanwhile, Beijing Customs considers the incident a rumor, citing article 67 of China’s Exit and Entry Administration Law.

According to the Beijing notice, the article said exit or entry documents forged, altered, obtained by fraudulent means, or declared void by issuing authorities shall be invalid. The public security agency may be able to confiscate or cancel passports by cutting corners.

But the phrase “cancel passports by cutting corners” could nowhere be found in the original text

Have you wondered why the Chinese government would make such a move? 

Explanations for the government to clip passport corners

Pandemic issues as a pretext

As reported by Radio Free Asia (RFA), U.S.-legal scholar Teng Biao said that Chinese nationals should be free to enter or leave China at will under the constitution, Chinese passport law, and immigration legislation.

He claims that the Chinese Entry-Exit Bureau’s actions are in violation of laws protecting citizens’ fundamental rights and that the pandemic is being used as a pretext.

Meanwhile, current affairs commentator Fang Yuan believes the pandemic is not the primary reason for the new restrictions. These choices are in line with the current status of the U.S.-China trade war. 

Fang Yuan said, [quote] “These actions may cause some harm to [Chinese interests], but they are also hurting the other side.” [end quote]

According to article 67, the entry and exit documents will be invalid if they are damaged, lost, or stolen. Therefore, people will need to renew them. Moreover, Chinese nationals told RFA that the authorities have gradually stopped issuing new passports and exit visas, citing pandemic control. 

A user named “Big Bowl” has recently shared a story on Singapore media that his family could buy a second-hand flat after working hard in Singapore for a few years.

However, his wife cannot get a new passport due to the mainland’s pandemic control policy, and her Singapore permanent residence will be canceled in March. He fears this may endanger the family’s housing status in Singapore, as the country requires two permanent residents to buy second-hand houses.

Preserving money at home

The National Immigration Administration (NIA) convened a conference to tighten entry and exit restrictions, calling on Chinese nationals not to leave the country unless necessary.

The Chinese government is attempting to maintain control of the situation by preventing people from leaving the country. It will cost a lot of money in foreign currency, even if it is only for traveling, studying, or visiting friends and family.

Fearing that the Chinese government will divide their hard-earned savings, particularly after last year’s commonwealth policy, not only the rich, but also the middle class, are fleeing.

If these people leave China, they will take their money and assets with them. China’s foreign exchange reserves are now critically low, indicating that the economy is in serious trouble.

As the Asia Times reported, some analysts explain that the tightening exit rules are intended to slow capital outflows as the Chinese currency has been on a significant downward trend since last month. The renminbi exchange rate has fallen sharply since April 2022, from 6.4 to 6.6 to the dollar.

Analysts: Keeping talents at home so as not to learn about the global situation

Because the epidemic had not yet finished, the NIA said in a statement on May 13 that it was necessary to restrict people’s travel out of the nation if they did not have a need or an emergency to leave. People may still leave the country to study, work, do business, visit sick relatives, or attend family funerals.

However, some incidents show that the Chinese government wants to prevent people from studying abroad. 

A university student posted a complaint that he was traveling to Canada on a student visa but was still asked by the border control officer at the exit what he was doing in Canada and if he had “offline courses” at the Canadian university. When he answered, “I’m studying the language first, no offline courses yet,” the border control officer cut off my passport and said, “If you don’t have offline courses, why are you going out?”  

Zhang Ben, who often travels abroad for private purposes, said in an interview on July 10 that Chinese border police have been cutting off the passports of nationals for years. Since the epidemic outbreak, it has been more difficult than ever for nationals to leave the country. 

She said, “Passports have been cut for two or three years. Now the cards have been strict for two years, and all Chinese passport holders leave the country, and the border guards will not let you go if they can. Now it’s all about unmarked enforcement and no relevant documents are issued. Their principle is that all Chinese passport holders leaving the country are asked in detail and asked to provide a lot of materials, it’s really strict.”

In addition, a netizen reported a case of 400 people, including parents and students, who couldn’t get their visas to Japan. Only ten of them could get the visa.

He said, “Now going out (abroad) is difficult. In our Chongqing Japanese visa group, there are four hundred people, of which there are a hundred parents, equivalent to three hundred people, students, international students, investment management visas, and humanities visas. Nobody could get out. From March 25 to now, including international students and those on investment management visas. Only ten people were able to get to Japan. Now it is difficult to leave, and with no direct flights, all connection flights. It takes three or four days to fly to Japan. Now it’s really hard to go! Whether in terms of customs or trip, anyway, it’s not easy to go out!”

RFA cites Huang, an employee at an overseas study consultancy. He said that under Chinese government regulations, parents aren’t allowed to send their children overseas too young. The Chinese government is concerned that children will be insulted by Western values.

The news that certain well-known Chinese universities have decided to withdraw from global rankings may spark public interest. After years of receiving extra government funds to promote selected top institutions’ international university rankings, three well-known Chinese colleges will no longer participate in international rankings. 

In May this year, Chinese media outlets reported that Renmin University, Nanjing University, and Lanzhou University had all withdrawn from the international university rankings. In fact, these three institutions are a part of Project 985, a project to build the world’s first world-class universities by the Chinese government. 

Lu, a commentator on current affairs in Zhejiang, was outraged by the difficulties Chinese citizens face at border control when they go abroad. He said, “There has been a lot of information before that many netizens have been denied when applying for a passport or renewing their passports. This shows that the Chinese government is trying to reduce the number of nationals going abroad and is worried that they can learn the real situation of the outside world after they leave China.”

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