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Chinese Billionaire Relocates to St. Kitts

One of China’s most successful restaurateurs is giving up her membership in a prestigious political body after she was discovered to be holding a non-Chinese passport.

Zhang Lan, founder and chairwoman of Beijing’s South Beauty Sichuan restaurant chain, was revealed to have a foreign passport during a hearing on a lawsuit in which she is a party. The revelation was greeted by calls for a boycott of her restaurants. Her new nationality has since been revealed as a national of St. Kitts & Nevis.

Because China doesn’t allow dual-citizenships, Zhang renounced her Chinese citizenship and had her hukou (household registration) canceled on September 17. She also recently submitted a written application to relinquish her membership of the Beijing Chaoyang District Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the committee’s vice chairman told Xinhua Wednesday.

Zhang was ranked 589th in the Hurun China Rich List with an estimated net worth of 3.1 billion yuan ($490 million) as of 2011.

Zhang’s foreign citizenship isn’t unusual among wealthy Chinese. Nearly half (46%) of Chinese with assets worth more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) were considering moving abroad, while 14% had already begun the process, according to a recent report by Hurun and the Bank of China.

The US and Canada were the most popular destinations, offering escape from China’s rigid education system, pollution, rising living costs and widespread corruption — the top motives for emigrating, according to the Hurun survey.

Wealthy emigrants typically avail themselves of investment immigration provisions in which legal residence leading to citizenship can be had for substantial business or property investments. The US grants investment visas for $1 million investments or a $500,000 investment that creates at least 10 jobs in distressed areas.

“I will be loyal to my country because I’m a Chinese,” Zhang was quoted as saying in a TV interview.

Most cynical Chinese have shrugged off Zhang’s change of citizenship as simply a routine practice among China’s corrupt officials and wealthy businesspeople.

But her move has also been heavily criticized as one Chinese writer put it, “Those who shout the loudest about their loyalty are always the ones who run away the fastest.”

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