A rumor about the Chinese government suspending passport renewals for Chinese nationals living overseas has been circulating online since early July.
Many posts claim the government intends to force people to return to China to be inspected and even confined in the country.
A post on Hong Kong’s popular web forum LIHKG, for example, has 800 likes and nine pages of comments. The pro-democracy-leaning Facebook group BeWater HK posted the same claim in English, garnering 100 likes and 30 shares.
A tweet with a similar claim has many Chinese users with accounts that appear to be based in different countries commenting that embassies in the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, and other places are suspending passport renewal services.
Annie Lab investigated and found that, at the time of this publication, dozens of Chinese embassies around the world are not processing passport renewals due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, on their website, the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom put out an announcement about the closure of visa centers on March 25.
“We regret to inform you that due to the current situation arising from COVID-19, we will temporarily close the Chinese Visa Application Service Centers until further notice,” the notice said.
However, the situation has been updated by another announcement about the reopening of visa centers with operation on every Tuesday and Thursday from June 16 in consideration of the gradual easing of the COVID-19 lockdown in the U.K.
Meanwhile, Annie Lab found that the embassies in more than 100 countries are still accepting passport renewal applications.
According to the official website of the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., people can apply for a passport renewal if:
- Their passports have expired;
- If the validity period of their passport is less than one year, or if the validity period of the passport is more than one year remaining, but the passport needs to be renewed earlier due to local residence, visa extension, work permit or other justifiable reasons;
- If the visa page of the passport is about to run out;
- There are significant changes in appearance.
In order to start the process, people are expected to make appointments through phone calls or online applications.
Annie Lab tested the online application system in the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S. and found that appointments cannot be made.
Phone calls to Chinese embassies in Japan, New Zealand, and the U.K. were not answered. Many other hotlines listed by Chinese embassies in foreign countries simply refer to the Ministry of Foreign affairs’ official website.
On its website the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong says due to the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic the consular office temporarily closed on July 21.
When an Annie Lab member who holds a Chinese passport made an inquiry about its renewal over the phone, an official explained that people can still make online appointments for passport applications although they will not proceed until the consular office reopens.
The following two lists show embassies that do and do not accept online reservations to start the passport renewal process.
(Note: the two lists were made by looking into the online application system managed by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Annie Lab did not contact every embassy.)
List of countries or regions where the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China does not allow users to make an appointment (at the time of this article’s publication):
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Northern Macedonia
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Congo
- United Arab Emirates
- East Timor
List of countries or regions where you can book an appointment online (at the time this article’s publication):
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- Brazil (except for Santa Catarina, Sao Paolo, Rio Grande Do Sol, and Parana)
- Chile (except for areas outside the consulate)
- Germany (but ONLY in Baden-wuerttemberg, Bavaria, North-Rhine Westphalia, Hesse, Rhineland Palatinate, Saarland)
- Sweden (but ONLY in certain districts)
- Russia (except for Arkhangelsk, Karelia, Leningrad, Murmansk, Novgorod, Pskov, Saint Petersburg)
- Ukraine (in some areas only)
- Moldova, West Africa
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- South Africa (except for Kwazulu-natal)
- Equatorial Guinea (except for Litoral, Kie-Ntem, Wele-Nzas, Centro-sur)
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Cape Verde
- Sierra Leone
- India (except for Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal)
- Hong Kong
- Pakistan (except for Balochistan and Sindh)
- Turkey (except for some areas)
- Indonesia (except East Java and other areas)
- Kazakhstan (except for Almaty, Almaty Oblast, Eastern Kazakhstan, Zhambyl, Southern Kazakhstan)
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea (but ONLY in Gwangju, Jeju, Jeollabuk-do, Jeollanamdo)
- Sri Lanka