CHINA> National
Ban on diplomats with foreign spouses
By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-28 10:04

Chinese diplomats married to foreigners will not be allowed to fulfill a major step in their diplomatic career - serving in embassies, a draft law has stipulated.

The restriction also applies to diplomats whose spouses hold long-term or permanent residency in other countries, according to the draft of China's first law on overseas diplomatic personnel.

China's top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), started the second reading on the matter yesterday during the bimonthly legislature session.

Related readings:
Ban on diplomats with foreign spouses Love in short supply for political spouses
Ban on diplomats with foreign spouses Survey: Young Germans prefer Web to spouses

The draft also stipulates that overseas diplomats must report information about their prospective spouses before marriage, but there is no need to ask for permission. Divorces are also to be reported.

"Overseas diplomatic personnel are a special group fulfilling special missions in special environments, so all countries have their own restrictions on the conditions of that group. China is not an exception," an official with the Department of Personnel under the Foreign Ministry, who declined to be named, told China Daily.

For instance, Britain demands that spouses of its overseas diplomats must be British citizens, he said.

"And recently an engineer of the US embassy in China, who holds a diplomatic passport, was sentenced to half a year in prison in his country for keeping close relations with a Chinese woman without reporting it," he said.

Another official of the ministry, working for the spokesperson's office, told China Daily that although the stipulations were not written into the law previously, such restrictions have actually been in place informally for years.

"When we chose the job, we knew what it meant. We have to take the interests of our country as the top priority," she said.

"For most of our diplomats, the restrictions are not a problem. I have only heard of one case in my years in the ministry of someone working in an embassy quitting the job for love."

The draft also stipulates that diplomats will be provided with life accident insurance along with necessary medical care and safety.

The Foreign Ministry submitted the draft to the Standing Committee of the 11th NPC for a first reading in June.

After that, the ministry integrated recommendations solicited from the public on the NPC website, as well as ideas from diplomats and experts.

In contrast to the first edition, the draft eased restrictions on marriage by eliminating the clause that diplomats must get permission to marry. It also increases the minimum age for a diplomat from 18 to 23.

China has about 5,000 diplomats serving in diplomatic agencies in 171 countries.