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My government (China) cancelled my passport. I'm in Malaysia. What can I do?

Reason of the cancellation: I posted a tweet saying EAT MY ASS while tagging a government institution. I mean I don't know for sure this was the reason but I can't think of anything else. I guess China wants me to be stuck in China my whole life. That is not something I want.

I realized my passport is cancelled at the airport.

I'm not a dual citizen.

I'm in Malaysia as a tourist.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JoErNanO
    Sep 29 at 15:08

8 Answers 8

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It would be the best to contact Chinese authorities to inquire about the reason. Even if the cancellation is political, contacting them would not cause you a higher risk than your unclear legal situation at the moment, and such contact may be necessary to obtain evidences that can justify any claim of protection.

If you have frequently travelled to certain countries in South East Asia for unclear private purposes (documented studies and employments aside), and your place of origin is considered high risk (e.g. Fujian), you may have simply been victim of the rather dystopian automated high-risk individual detection system to combat (at least supposedly) the extremely widespread telecommunication fraud. Risk factors includes young age, previously unemployed or employed in low paid jobs, large or numerous financial transactions for unclear reasons, lack of education, record of unpaid debts, or from a village with a disproportionate number of foreign telecom fraud suspects.

If this is the reason and you return, you must be prepared to provide documentation and explanation for all your travels to be eligible for a passport again.

A non essential travel ban is in place at the moment so if you return you will not be able to exit for tourism for some period of time, even if you obtain a passport.


Based on the comments you made, I do not think the tweet being the reason for cancellation is probable. Twitter is unlikely to cooperate with the Chinese authorities and China is unlikely to investigate with that much resources into such a tweet which there are tens of thousands of such messages on Twitter.

But of course, no matter what other reason it may be, the situation sucks for you. There likely is unfortunately no good solutions for you.

Asylum may be an option like other answers and comments have suggested. But I must bring to your attention that:

  • Malaysia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and does not have a definite comprehensive domestic law dealing with refugees.

  • As such, you will not obtain an internationally recognized Convention refugee travel document. A travel permit may be issued on a case-by-case by Malaysian authorities, and it is not guaranteed to be accepted by all countries.

  • For the same reason, you have no legal status in Malaysia, even if Malaysia out of good will follows in general the principle of non-refoulment and allows the operation of the UN Refugee Agency. Working is not legally authorized, even if occasional "under-the-table" small jobs are tolerated.

  • Asylum seekers who return to China are likely to have consequences more serious than for a rude tweet, and it creates even more difficulty for obtaining a passport in the future.

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  • 2
    Extremely widespread telecommunication fraud. Can you explain what this is? -- I responded to your other comment in comments
    – user131096
    Sep 27 at 20:50
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    @user131096 You must've seen the complaints and the campaign against 电信诈骗 everywhere on Chinese internet.
    – xngtng
    Sep 27 at 21:10
  • "It would be the best to contact Chinese authorities to inquire about the reason." At this point I'd contact the Malaysian ones instead and consider asylum.
    – Mast
    Sep 29 at 20:21
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    @Mast There are a number of reasons for the cancellation that could be undesirable and unreasonable but do not raise to persecution. Malaysia is NOT a signatory to the intl. refugee conventions and asylum seekers DO NOT have a legal status (it is purely out of the "good will" of the Malaysian government that they are not actively deported). Applying for asylum is a very serious matter, no internationally recognized travel document will be available (Malaysian grants travel permits on case-by-case basis). Additionally, the presumed reason (for a simple tweet) is honestly very improbable.
    – xngtng
    Sep 29 at 20:36
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The answer is tied to what you want to do

If you want to go back to China, you need to contact the PRC embassy in Malaysia, and sort the issue that got your passport canceled in the first place, of course, it may attract issues at your return in China.

If you don't want to go back, or if the previous option failed before you even left Malaysia, the only way is to seek asylum in Malaysia :

Your legal status is not infinite and may put you in another load of issues if caught as an illegal immigrant (Malay jails aren't the prettiest place you can serve time in).

Note that has its own issues and consequences too of course.

To do so, the steps are laid out in the UNHCR site for Malaysia

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    If you don't seek asylum, if you seek it, you are considered legal immigrant while the application is processed, even if the application takes years @user131096 Sep 27 at 19:59
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    If you feel that you might prefer going back to China it is not unlikely that your case will be seen as 'not bad enough in China to prevent you returning home' which may lead to a denial of getting refugee status. (I do not say it will, but getting refugee status is not easy, you need to be in real danger in your home country or there need to be other strong reasons.)
    – Willeke
    Sep 27 at 20:15
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    @gerrit Yes, you can seek asylum without any identity documentation, this is of course hindering on your application, but this is perfectly possible and logical. This is an issue in some airports where people would come in transit, at their transit point, will dispose of their passports in the toilets to then seek asylum. Sep 28 at 9:25
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    Seeking asylum means you're never to enter China again. The moment you do, your asylum status is instantly revoked. This is a very serious course of action.
    – Nelson
    Sep 28 at 9:28
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    @user131096: It doesn't make sense that you don't want to go back to China, and at the same time don't want to "be stuck" in the only other country that you might possibly be able to try to stay in (and even that is uncertain). What do you imagine is the alternative? I mean, if you had legal resident status in a third country that you are happy to live in, then you can probably go there, but you don't.
    – user102008
    Sep 28 at 17:40
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If your passport is cancelled, there is a reason for that. What I find strange is that your passport is cancelled while you were away and not at home. This may be an error by the Chinese authorities. I mean they cancelled your passport based on your behaviour not realizing you are not inside China. Possible, but unlikely. Bottom line is; passport is cancelled. Risk of retributions on return. Whatever the government says now is not relevant anymore because they can NOT be trusted.

It is possible you will get calls and/or messages from friends and family asking you to come back and tell you not to worry about a thing and that everything will be ok. When this happens you should NOT return to China again, since this is the standard ploy of the government to get you back.

You have a very difficult decision to make right now. Because not going back may means you will not see your family again. It is also possible that they will make the lives of your family in China more difficult in order to pressure you into coming back to China, while at the same time you may also never see your family again if you go back to China simply because they will lock you up.

If I were you, I would ask for asylum. However, the Chinese government has been known to go to extremes in order to get the people back to China. There are many recorded cases of kidnapping and people smuggling from foreign countries back to China. With this in mind and considering the relatively good relation that Malaysia has with China, I would not ask for asylum in Malaysia, but I would go to an embassy of an other country. I would likely try an embassy of one of the western European countries instead. Alternatively you could go to the embassy of Australia, New Zealand or Canada as well. I really think those are your best chances.

Furthermore, I would NOT enter the Chinese embassy! The risk is too great I think.

Good luck! You need it my friend.

UPDATE 01: I just spoke to the Dutch embassy and they informed me that you can not apply for political assylum inside the embassy. They have suggested to contact the UNHCR for this. I have tried to contact them here in Thailand, but nobody was available who could speak English. I will keep trying and update here if/when I know more. Since the Netherlands is an EU member and most countries are pretty much aligned on immigration policy I think that there is little chance you can apply for asylulm in the embassy of other countries.

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  • I agree but how does one go to an embassy exactly? Also why would these countries want to help me? They're not running a charity. I think millions of people would abuse their rules/systems if these countries had rules/systems that can accept me... Seems like I'm truly f*cked...
    – user131096
    Sep 29 at 21:01
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    Comment pulled from Stewart's video : "Nova Star, 4 months ago. My Chinese wife and I live in Australia, she's a permanent resident and we have two young kids. Her passport was about to expire and I was terrified they would say she needs to go back to China to renew. Turned out the Chinese embassy in Australia could do it for her and her new passport was delivered to our house. :)" - It's fine in Australia, but not a good idea in Malaysia?
    – Mazura
    Sep 30 at 2:00
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    @Mazura The difference is that you are talking about an expired passport. We are here talking about a passport trhat has been cancelled by the Chinese goievrnment. That is a totally different thing. Sep 30 at 2:51
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    @moonman239 Even if that was the case, OP would get in a very long line when even legitimate refugee from warzone are still waiting for years, especially if OP then mention they prefer "getting stuck in China" rather than "getting stuck in Malaysia".
    – Martheen
    Sep 30 at 2:59
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    @user131096 I have just contacted the Dutch embassy and explained your situation and asked what your options are for asylum. I am sorry, but I have to admit that I was wrong and you can not apply for political asylum in the Dutch embassy. Since most European countries are pretty much aligned, I would think that this applies to all other EU countries as well. However, I was told that you can and should contact the UNHCR and they will guide you further. I have tried to contact the UNHCR, but there was nobody available here in Thailand who spoke English at this time. Sep 30 at 5:20
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Your legal options are:

  • Stay in Malaysia and seek asylum, or
  • Return to China and see what happens.

The reality of many refugees is that their travel involves non-legal means, in particular, undocumented border crossings, to reach the country where they wish to seek asylum. Some may also use forged travel documents. Of course, non-legal means of transportation carry a high risk both from authorities (detention and deportation), from criminals (scammers posing as helpers), and from the environment (crossing seas in unseaworthy vessels, being stranded in the desert). Border crossings carry the highest risk. You might die. Even if you don't get hurt, if you get caught and deported to China, your situation there may be (even) worse than if you return voluntarily (I have no idea if China punishes citizens who are deported to China).

Many years ago, my mother had an Uyghur refugee in her class (my mother taught Dutch) who managed to get from China to The Netherlands without a passport. The refugee disclosed no details on how she succeeded, other than that it involved trains. This was well before the era of smartphones and the Chinese surveillance state was considerably less effective than compared to today.

Theoretically, you could try to get to Europe overland, either from Malaysia or from China, escaping authorities, in particular in border regions. People travel without papers from at least as far as Bangladesh to Europe, so it's possible. Reportedly, there are various groups on messaging networks such as Whatsapp where refugees and human smugglers interact to organise such journeys. If I'm counting correctly, you are three border crossings from Bangladesh and eight border crossings removed from the EU. If you try this, good luck on your travel and your application as an asylum seeker.

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  • The irregular routes to Europe and other Western countries pose significant personal safety risk and scams are rampant. The OP needs to keep this in mind when deciding whether it's worth it, it is not the travel most travellers here have experienced and legal recourses in the intermediary countries are extremely limited.
    – xngtng
    Sep 30 at 9:04
  • @xngtng True, the risk is not only from authorities but also from criminals and the environment. Edited to reflect this.
    – gerrit
    Sep 30 at 9:11
  • +1. It is an unfortunate situation. If you are risking long-term detention or forced labour or prolonged war and famine, the perilous journey may be more likely to worth it than if you "only" risk being stuck in China (but relatively free otherwise than opinions) (of course, this is for OP to decide; if they succeed, most Western countries following the convention do not punish people entering "illegally").
    – xngtng
    Sep 30 at 9:29
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Being a Chinese citizen, you can certainly return to China. However, China will punish you after you return to China as you made a mistake (you must know this). If your family is powerful enough, you can return to China and face the Chinese law. As other people have said, you can also seek asylum in Malaysia. Also, it could be an option to consider. There are a lot of Chinese people living in Malaysia.

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    Do you have any sort of source for this answer? "China will punish you" is a strong claim that needs backing up.
    – Robin
    Sep 29 at 19:24
  • @Robin The current Chinese regime is brutal and authoritarian, with a massive and increasing legacy of Human Rights abuse. There's no one source for that. If you studied it closely enough for a single weekend, you'd come away reeling.
    – Stewart
    Sep 30 at 6:52
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    @Stewart I'm aware that China has horrible human rights abuses. But what we care about is answering OP's situation. If your passport is cancelled, does that mean "China will punish you"? That's the claim Max made, and that's the claim Max needs to back up with sources.
    – Robin
    Sep 30 at 13:06
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    @Robin The passport being cancelled, unless it was a mistake, is already a form of punishment. But you need more sources? Sep 30 at 13:27
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    @Robin This does answer the OP's situation. At least partially. It strongly advises against attempting to return to China.
    – Stewart
    Sep 30 at 15:21
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One theoretical option, if you can swing it, is to come to the United States and apply for asylum.

The qualification for asylum here in the US is that you have been persecuted on the basis of, or have a credible fear of being persecuted on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership in a particular social group
  • Political opinion

(Source: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/asylum)

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    Various west European countries are also good options.
    – Stewart
    Sep 30 at 6:49
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    Of course, the problem is how to get there. You can't fly if you have no passport.
    – Stewart
    Sep 30 at 6:56
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    This is a travel site, so hints on how to get there would be helpful. My mother once had an Uyghur refugee in her class (she taught Dutch as a second language) who managed to get from China to The Netherlands despite having no passport. She (the refugee) would not give any details on how she managed this to protect her helpers, but apparently it's possible.
    – gerrit
    Sep 30 at 8:26
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    @Stewart Legally, one can't. Many refugees use non-legal means to get to their destination.
    – gerrit
    Sep 30 at 8:42
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    Fear has to be credible, realizable and individualized. If a tweet qualifies for asylum you'd see a lot more asylum seekers being accepted. Of course, OP's case may be particular and there is possibility to try these options. But they should understand the significant legal and practical obstacles they will encounter.
    – xngtng
    Sep 30 at 8:57
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China is getting more and more authoritarian and is revoking passports

In your situation, I would not be returning to China. The Human Rights record of their "justice" system is getting worse. It could cost you your freedom, or even your life.

I would attempt to seek asylum and change citizenship - although in which country, I'm not sure.

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    Human rights are not great in Malaysia either, but OP may not have much choice and it's not like people can simply choose their citizenship.
    – gerrit
    Sep 29 at 8:13
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    for the "revoking passports" source, you linked to a 1h+ long video from serpentza. He's a well known white supremacist, and that kind of content is arguably not appropriate as a source (rather, find some stats about passport revocations, compared to the past and/or other countries, and copy them in your answer). If you want to see another very long video which shows how dubious a source like serpentza is, you can try this: youtube.com/watch?v=dHAO080lQUY&t=0s .
    – berdario
    Sep 29 at 11:59
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    Serpentza is not a white supremacist, Berdario gives no proof or source of this (the linked video is pure bunk) and I would not be surprised that is a Chinese government shill due to this false accusation that they have made. Sep 30 at 4:54
  • @TundraFizz I agree. I have never seen a single hint that Serpentza is racist. But I have seen deep knowledge and nuanced consideration of Chinese people and culture. On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that the current Chinese regime is the worst in history, and the CCP operate covert agents all over the internet and on foreign soil. However, I will watch the suggested video, so that I am aware of what is being said.
    – Stewart
    Sep 30 at 6:44
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    Regardless of whether the person in the linked video is a racist, this answer is extremely poor quality. An answer that mostly has some opinion statements and for its 'facts' merely says 'just watch this 1 HOUR long video of this Youtube-bro' is absolutely NOT worthy of a Stackexchange answer. Sep 30 at 8:57
0

Actually I want to know if you have asked embassy of China ,seems other answers not mentioned that in China ,if you verbal attack the government,you likely not to be punished for this, but mostly banned by the social media,the worest situation is you may be detention less than 15 days.

The most likely reasons for passport cancellation is you are considered as a scammer,if you are not ,I still recommend you to the embassy of China to know the reason.

By the way, In some answers ,China seems the most evil that are
murdered their people, I'm shocked that the Western Media reports twisted too much

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  • I'm in China and since the Covid-19,many scammer in south-east asia are called back china and most of them are noticed by their familied in China
    – Hanshan
    Sep 30 at 7:14
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    Maybe the reporting in the rest of the world is more trustworthy than that of China.
    – Willeke
    Sep 30 at 8:08
  • In an earlier comment (now in Chat) the OP mentions they have contacted their local police but did not get the reason for the passport cancellation. The answer from @Nicolas Formichella mentions contacting the embassy
    – Traveller
    Sep 30 at 9:36
  • As @Willeke says , the others (maybe western) report is more reliable.but if OP want get the passport ,and the reason of canceled, maybe the local administration will be more useful
    – Hanshan
    Oct 2 at 13:40
  • And I'm shocked that some comments are full of political hatred ,it's useless and won't helpful for OP, I'm here and I live will , that's the best answer
    – Hanshan
    Oct 2 at 13:42

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