No plans for Beijing to issue overseas Chinese card: Official

China has no plans for now to introduce an "overseas Chinese card" that will allow foreigners with Chinese ethnicity to enjoy permanent residency treatment and other benefits, said a top official.

Ms Qiu Yuanping, head of the State Council's Overseas Chinese Affairs office, said China will instead focus on relaxing its permanent residency rules and coming up with new initiatives to make it easier for foreigners - including ethnic Chinese - to work, study and live in the country.

"We are not thinking presently of issuing an ethnic Chinese card," she said, when asked on Sunday on the sidelines of China's annual national legislative session.

Ms Qiu said media reports, that China was planning such a card, were untrue. She added that they may have arisen from its moves to relax immigration and residency rules since 2013.

Beijing has also put in place a slew of initiatives in Shanghai and Beijing since July last year to make it easier for foreign talent to get a green card.

Among the initiatives were measures that gave ethnic Chinese preferential treatment. For instance, former Chinese nationals now holding foreign citizenship and, possibly, foreigners with Chinese ethnicity who have a doctorate or have worked for four years in Beijing's Zhongguancun high-tech park, can apply for the green card.

Talk that China could be issuing an overseas Chinese card also surfaced last November after Zhongguancun listed it among several proposals to attract foreign talent.

Cardholders reportedly would enjoy permanent residency status, which means they would not have to apply for work visas. They would also be treated like Chinese citizens in areas such as investment, property purchase and education.

In response to media queries, Zhongguancun's administrative committee said the proposed card was awaiting official approval.

Ms Qiu, however, kept alive a glimmer of hope for ethnic Chinese foreigners who are looking to apply for such a card. She said the government is aware of the interest among overseas Chinese in such a card.

"Therefore, we pay a lot of attention, too. We will continue to communicate and cooperate with relevant departments to promote such a programme," she added.

Kor Kian Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'No plans for Beijing to issue overseas Chinese card: Official'. Print Edition | Subscribe