The Hukou, China's citizen registration system at the forefront of social insecurity
June 2, 2010

Whoever believed China’s social instability was restricted to its western most frontier of Tibet is strongly mistaken. While China’s economy has emerged as a phoenix triumphant from the ashes of the financial crisis, the nation’s social divide between the have’s and have-nots has worsened.

In an outburst demanding equality, China’s mostly controlled media on Monday demanded the nation’s 60-year-old hukou system be abolished. Expressing rage between the social services available to those in the urban areas Vs those in the rural areas, 13 prominent regional newspapers carried headlines condemning the discriminating system of citizen registration in language that unmistakably evoked early 20th century Chinese revolutionary movement.

The hukou system was introduced in China in the 1950’s soon after communist victory. It became mandatory for every new-born child to be registered at their parents residence and be designated either a rural or urban citizen. It is on the basis of location of birth that the child’s future eligibility for  social services such as health, education, legal status and welfare is decided.

The hukou system was established to control internal migration and determine the level of social benefits a citizen can receive depending on where they live. However, as China’s coastal cities promise to make dreams come true, the demographic dividend worsens,  adding to the burden of a single child worker and social security becomes an insecurity, China’s citizen’s have begun to fight for their rights.

“The hukou system perpetuates highly discriminatory policies and social inequality; it violates China’s constitution and should be abolished,” Mr Hu told the Financial Times on Monday.

The Economic Observer, a prominent financial newspaper, and one of the 13 newspapers to carry the headline, also blamed the hukou system for being an obstacle to the furthering of the process of urbanization as well as being a source of corruption and social inequality.

Further, internet chat rooms, populated by young migrants who are trying to make a living in cities have called the hukou system ‘the hotbed of corruption’.  Many young steroidssaleguide Chinese migrants want to make the city their home and receive social security benefits on par with their urban cousins,  are forced to buy urban registrations for exorbitant sums from unscrupulous officials.

The Chinese government is aware of this simmering social tension between its rural and urban population. In a bid to quell the unrest, Beijing has decided to put the discussion of hukou registrations at the top of their agenda during meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress, which begin on March 3 and 5 respectively.

Most China experts believe that the system will be regularized systematically, with smaller towns abolishing the hukou system first and large cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzen last.

To add your comments to the story above, please visit the Inchin Forum.

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