Flat White

Does China have a claim on Penny Wong?

21 August 2017

12:36 PM

21 August 2017

12:36 PM

The dual citizenship issues that have now entangled so many of our Parliamentarians have thrown up many issues, and one of the most interesting – read significant – is that of the ancient Chinese law of jus sanguinis ‘right of blood’ still adhered to under Chinese law.

Labour Senate leader Penny Wong, who was born in Malaysia, may be considered by China, under the legalities of jus sanguinis to be a ‘daughter of China’.

Wong has, rightly, declared herself to be legally Australian but China may not see it that way. Jus sanguinis is a legal instrument in use in many North Asian countries including China, which considers ‘overseas Chinese’ ‘hua chiau’ and the descendants of Chinese migrants in South East Asia, in countries still called the ‘little dragons’, as ‘Chinese’ too even if it is several generations since their forebears left China.


It’s a legality contested hotly in both Hong Kong and Taiwan but a tenet held discreetly but firmly under Chinese law. In their countries of settlement, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, those of Chinese heritage, even those whose roots go back generations, may still be considered ‘Chinese’, resulting in disadvantage and discrimination.

Perhaps easier to work out than jus sanguinis questions for Bill Shorten are those of his side whose status has still only been asserted with a “trust us, we know what we’re doing”, rather than clearly proven — like his own.

Labor had a field day crowing over the discomfiture of the Nationals but Senator Wong may find she is hailed enthusiastically as a ‘daughter of China’, if and when she visits next, whether or not she wishes it.

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