Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Friday, March 26, 2010

The famous hukou editorial

On March 1, "[a] group of 13 Chinese newspapers from across the country carried an identical front-page editorial ... calling for the abolition of China’s household registration hukou system in a highly unusual co-ordinated critique of government policy." (Jamil Anderlini, "Call to end China citizen registration system," Financial Times, March 1, 2010) It seems, however, that appropriate advance permission had not been obtained. According to the South China Morning Post, "all the publications involved and most major internet news portals have removed the editorial or reports of it from their websites. According to an editor of another media outlet that ran the editorial, the verdict from the Central Publicity Department was brief: 'This act was inappropriate'." Moreover, the same article reported that "[e]ditors at The Economic Observer, the newspaper which initiated a joint editorial published on Monday criticising the mainland's hukou (household registration) system, have been punished for their bold action as other participating media confirmed a government order to remove the editorial from their websites."

Further reports:

It seems that the text of the editorial is still up on some web sites; here it is (available as of today) on the web site of the Chongqing Times (重庆时报). On the assumption that it would be nice to have a reliable source for both Chinese and English versions, however, I'm posting the original and a translation (the author of which has asked to remain anonymous). I'll post the English first, with the Chinese text following.

A Call for Accelerated Reforms to the Household Registration System to Truly Grant Rights to the People

China has long tasted the bitterness of its household registration system! Conceived in the planned economy era, it is an outdated system that has existed for decades and continues to disrupt the people's livelihoods today. It has, without sufficient reforms, ceased being relevant. To this end, on the occasion of the convening of the national "Two Sessions" , we,  the 13 newspapers from 11 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, are issuing a joint editorial and submitting it to the representatives and committee members of the “Two Sessions.” We ask that you use the power in your hands to urge the relevant ministries and commissions to put forward a clear time table for household registration reform; and, to gradually use the demographic information registration system to replace the existing rigid household registration system until it is completely abolished.

The Constitution stipulates that the citizens of the People's Republic of China are all equal before the law, that the nation respects and protects human rights, and that the citizens’ personal freedoms will not be infringed upon. Freedom of movement is an inseparable component of human rights and personal freedom; it is a basic right that the Constitution bestowed the people. However, the current household registration policy has created unequal statuses among urban residents and between urban residents and peasants, constraining the Chinese citizens’ freedom of movement. Alllaws and administrative and local regulations must not contradict the Constitution – this is the legal basis for accelerating the current reforms of the  household registration system.

The household registration system has divided cities and countryside. The first generation of migrant workers invested their labor into the development of the cities. However, their offspring still have no means to resolve the status of their identities. Their children still have to bear the quandary of the previous generation. The cities in which they live remain unable to accept them. We have to ask: for how many more generations must this divide last?

Even within the cities, the household registration system has divided urban residents. In the same city, even though we, like all others,  have struggled for many years for the construction of the city and paid the same taxes, the absence of hukous has rendered us unable  to enjoy the same employment opportunities as others, or the same social services such as medical treatment, education, and elderly care. We have to ask: for how many more generations must this divide last?

The household registration system is a breeding ground for corruption. Because of its scarcity,  hukous have become the objects of buying and selling in many cities. Those with holders’ rights can use them to seek payment; real-estate agents can use them as sales tools. But the countless people who are vulnerable must either pay the money or find themselves without recourse. We  have to ask: for how many more generations must this inequality  last?

Not long ago, Premier Wen Jiabao clearly expressed that the central government had already decided to steadily advance household registration reform. And dozens of other cities nationwide, including Shanghai and Guangzhou, have already launched household registration reform measures. Residential permits are slowly replacing temporary residential permits in these cities, and holders will be able to enjoy the same public services such as social security, medical treatment, and education as local residents. At the same time, the country is accelerating the establishment of a unified national social security services system, bringing about the inter-regional transfer and continuation of social security networks...

Admittedly, progress is gratifying, but in many more areas, we are still disappointed to note the invisible and heavy shackles of household registration, distressing the innumerable hard-pressed people on the run. We are deeply aware of the complicated nature of the household registration policy and the intricate complexities of the details of reform.  Yet, we cannot overlook those who have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience oppression and hardship as a consequence of this policy.  For them, awaiting urgent reforms has made every minute of waiting seem endless.

As China's economy soars, we must also be mindful of the pressing imminence of the economy’s structural transformations. The demographic dividend is fading away, and natural resources will not be available forever. The power behind China's next stage of growth has already begun to point even more so to the adjustment of the internal structure and the optimization of efficient usage of natural resources. Household registration reform is not only good for the people's welfare; it can also inject more dynamism into China's economy. More important, household registration reform can help foster values and ideas centered around people, becoming the cornerstone of making balanced progress in  Chinese society and constructing a harmonious society.

For this reason, we call on representatives and committee members of the national "Two Sessions" to use the power in your hands – power that the people gave you – to urge the relevant ministries and commissions to abolish, as soon as possible, the "Household Registration Regulations" issued in 1958; to put forward a clear time table for national household registration reform; and, to  gradually use the demographic information records system to replace the current rigid household registration system until it is completely abolished.

We hope that our many citizens, whether   they are rooted in the north or south without dividing  them into urban and rural, will all have the same rights to employment, medical treatment, elderly care, education, and freedom of movement. We hope that the one thing that has suffered from many decades of   failed administration will end with this generation, our generation, and enable the next one to truly enjoy the sacred rights of freedom, democracy, and equality bestowed by the Constitution.

吁请加速户籍改革来真正赋权于民
 
  中国尝户籍制度之苦久矣!此诞生于计划经济时代、不合时宜地存在数十年之久之制度,至今仍时时困扰民生,已到非革新不足以与时俱进之境地。为此,值全国“两会”召开之际,我们,全国11个省、自治区和直辖市的13家报纸发表共同社论,提请“两会”代表与委员们,善用你们手中的权力,敦促有关部委提出户籍改革的明确时间表,逐步以人口信息登记制度取代现行僵化的户籍制度,直至将其彻底消除。

  《宪法》规定,中华人民共和国公民在法律面前一律平等,国家尊重和保障人权,公民的人身自由不受侵犯。迁徙自由是人权和人身自由不可分割的组成部分,这是宪法赋予国民的基本权利。然而,现行的户籍政策却造成了城市居民与农民、城市居民之间地位的不平等,制约了中国公民的自由迁徙。一切法律、行政法规和地方性法规都不得同宪法相抵触,这是加速目前户籍制度改革的法理基础。

  户籍制度分割了城市和乡村。最早的一代农民工,为城市的发展付出了自己的劳动,可是,他们的下一代仍然没有办法解决身份认同,他们的子女仍然背负着上一代的困惑,他们生活的城市仍然无法接纳他们。我们要问,这样的隔离究竟还要持续几代人?

  即便在城市中,户籍制度也分割了城市的居民。在同一座城市中,尽管我们与其他人一样为这座城市的建设奋斗多年,一样纳税,但没有户口让我们无法与其他人一样享受平等的就业机会,享受同等的医疗、教育、养老等社会保障。我们要问,这样的隔离究竟还要持续几代人?

  户籍制度还是滋生腐败的温床。正因其稀缺,在很多城市户口成了被买卖的对象。有权者可以以此寻租,地产商可以以此为销售工具,而万千弱势者要么付出金钱的代价,要么无奈地面对。我们要问,这样的不平等究竟还要持续几代人?

  温家宝总理不久前就明确表示,中央已经决定稳妥地推进户籍制度改革。而包括上海、广州等全国数十个城市都已经出台户籍改革的措施。在这些城市,居住证正逐步取代暂住证,持证者将可享受与当地居民相同的社保、医疗、教育等公共服务。同时,国家正在加快建立全国统一的社保服务体系,实现社保关系跨地区转移接续……

  进步固然可喜,但在更多地方,我们仍然失望地看到户籍这一无形而又沉重的枷锁,困住无数疲于奔命的人们。我们深知户籍政策之盘根错节,改革细节之错综复杂,然而我们更无法漠视那些已经、正在以及仍将因此政策而受挫、受苦的人们。对于他们,等待改革的迫切让每一分钟的等待都显得非常漫长。

  中国经济飞速成长的同时,我们也要警醒经济结构的转型已迫在眉睫。人口红利正在消失,自然资源也非源源不绝,中国经济下一轮成长的动力已经更多地指向内部结构的调整与资源使用效率的优化。户籍制度改革不仅利于民生,更能为中国经济注入更多活力。最重要的是,户籍制度改革能帮助确立以人为本的价值理念,成为中国社会各阶层均衡进步、构建和谐社会的基石。

  为此,我们呼吁全国“两会”代表委员,运用你们手中人民赋予的权力,敦促有关部委尽快废除1958年颁布的《户口登记条例》,提出全国户籍制度改革的明确时间表,逐步以人口信息登记制度取代现行僵化的户籍制度,直至最终将其彻底消除。

  我们希望,我万千国民,地无分南北,人不分城乡,都拥有同样的就业、医疗、养老、教育、自由迁徙的权利。我们希望,一项为患数十年的弊政,能终于我们这一代人,让下一代人真正享有自由、民主、平等的宪法赋予之神圣权利。

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