citizenship vs nationality

A former student asked about the difference between “citizenship” and “nationally” when both terms appear in a form. I know little about immigration ordinances. To me, a citizen is someone who belongs to a country (in this sense, it is close to ‘national’), or someone who lives in a place. So a citizen of a place can also be its national. But are there countries in the world where a citizen is not necessarily a national?

Before 1997, Hong Kong people’s nationality status was unclear. In those days, I put down Hong Kong as my nationality. I have continued that practice until today, and so far have never been queried by immigration officers at border controls in other countries. After 1997, all of a sudden, we ‘acquired’ the nationality of PRC (I may be wrong here), though obviously not many HK people have a PRC national identity. Can we call ourselves “Hong Kong citizens” then? Well, since “citizen” can also mean someone who belongs to a COUNTRY, the last thing the HK govt and the PRC government want to see is HONG Kong people calling themselves HK citizens. So, what is the way out? Well, someone in the HK government came up with this “ingenious” label: we are “Hong Kong residents”.

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