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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District


More than 500 Chinese people obtained European Union citizenship in the island nation of Cyprus between 2017 and 2019, including Asia’s richest woman, according to leaked documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

The documents, which are said to contain information on 2,500 immigrants to Cyprus during that time frame, appear to shed light on the secretive migration plans of China’s elite, Zhou Xin wrote for the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on August 25, 2020. Tang Yong, the current president of China Resources Power Holding, a large Chinese state-owned conglomerate, was also named by Al Jazeera. Tang received his Cypriot passport in January 2019, Al Jazeera said. One Chinese applicant for a Cypriot passport, Li Jiadong, was identified because he had been sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury. Another Chinese applicant, Zhang Keqiang, was named because he had been sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of fraud.

Al Jazeera, the Qatari state-owned broadcaster, did not disclose the full list of immigrants who were granted citizenship in Cyprus under the so-called golden passports program, as the disclosure focuses on people with track records that could violate rules for obtaining European Union citizenship. Among the more than 500 approved Chinese applicants, the broadcaster provided eight names, led by Yang Huiyan, a principal owner of Chinese property developer Country Garden.

Yang was named by Forbes as the sixth-richest women in the world in 2020 with a fortune of US$20.3 billion. Country Garden did not reply to multiple requests for comment. It is legal for Chinese citizens to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in foreign countries. However, once a Chinese national obtains foreign citizenship, it can result in the automatic loss of their Chinese citizenship, as China does not recognize dual nationality.

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