Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Editorial calls for abolition of hukou system


A joint editorial in 13 mainland newspapers has called on the nation’s top legislative body to abolish the hukou system - strict population controls that have split the country into rural and urban areas for decades.

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Guanyu 道 said...

Editorial calls for abolition of hukou system

13 newspapers attack rules that govern where people can live

He Huifeng
02 March 2010

A joint editorial in 13 mainland newspapers has called on the nation’s top legislative body to abolish the hukou system - strict population controls that have split the country into rural and urban areas for decades.

The editorial appeared in metropolitan newspapers from 11 provinces and areas yesterday on the eve of the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress, beginning on Friday, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, beginning tomorrow.

The papers include The Economic Observer in Beijing, the Chongqing Times, The Southern Metropolitan News in Guangdong, the Inner Mongolia Morning News, the Dahe Daily in Henan and the Southeast Express in Fujian.

Media watchers said such joint efforts by newspapers were voluntary but infrequent.

“Most of these 13 newspapers have a semi-official background but they do enjoy free will, to some degree, concerning social topics and supervision by public opinion,” Liu Jinsong, a journalism professor from Shenzhen University, said. “The joint editorial looks like a co-operative act by the newspapers, not something instigated by the government.

“Its publication at this sensitive moment does show the soaring appeal among the public for abolition of the population policy.”

Jin said it was likely the media would co-operate more frequently along similar lines in the future to increase their influence on hot social issues.

The joint editorial said the hukou regulation was unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of human rights.

“China’s people have been suffering from the hukou system for a long time,” it said. “We believe people are born to freedom and ... the right to migrate... We jointly release this editorial, asking all representatives of the NPC and CPPCC to make good use of your political power to urge the authorities to launch a reform with the aim of doing away with the ossified hukou system.”

The hukou system was introduced in 1958 when the central government issued the first set of resident-registration regulations since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. It put a lid on free migration flow, particularly from rural areas to cities.

But as the mainland has developed in recent decades, concerns have been expressed that the system may be doing more harm than good, with the divide between the urban and rural populations growing into a chasm.

The editorial said the hukou system had led to unfair competition between urban and rural people and was a breeding ground for the corrupt sale of urban residence permits.

“The joint editorial was proposed by The Economic Observer two months ago,” said Cao Xiaohong, managing editor-in-chief of the Inner Mongolia Morning News. “We joined since we think it significant to our country...

“We have been talking about how the country should propel domestic demand to fight against export deflation and boost economic development. There is great potential in the consumption demand of 900 million people in rural areas, but the hukou system, which restricts the free flow of the population within their own country, is choking it back.”

Mainlanders, especially those born in rural areas, complain that the hukou system has blocked family reunions and impeded education opportunities for children and job opportunities for their parents. People without a hukou are often treated like second-class citizens in cities where they have worked for years.

In recent years, some municipal governments, such as Shanghai, have made temporary rules to reform their hukou systems. The Shanghai rules are designed mostly to attract talented professionals. Applicants must meet a minimum of five requirements: living in the city for seven years, participating in the city’s social security programme for seven years, paying taxes, having a mid- level professional title, and violating neither the family planning nor other laws.