Household Registration Reform, Recent History

Thirteen Chinese newspapers have made a joint editorial appeal to allow migrant workers to choose their work in the country’s cities freely, reports The Guardian.

“China has suffered from the hukou [household registration] system for so long,” the appeal said. “We believe people are born free and should have the right to migrate freely, but citizens are still troubled by bad policies born in the era of the planned economy and [now] unsuitable.”

Their appeal comes ahead of the two sessions (lianghui), the annual sessions of the “legislative” National People’s Congress (全國人民代表大會) and the advisory Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (中国人民政治协商会议,). This year’s NPC session will also deal with a draft on the state’s secrets law.

If the joint appeal is in line with spiritual civilization (精神文明) as defined by the propaganda department, or action taken by the news people themselves seems to be an unanswered question so far. According to the Guardian report, at least one of the papers apparently removed its editoral on Monday, which might suggest that it has come under pressure.

The Economist of this week writes that the CCP gave grassroots democracy a few short-lived opportunities in the late 1990s, but has retaken tight control in the run-ups to the sessions since.

In September 2009, Pan Jiancheng (潘建成), the National Bureau of Statistics Economic Monitoring Center’s deputy director, said that abolishing household registration was “historically inevitable”, but according to a statement published on the National Bureau of Statistic’s website afterwards, Pan’s opinion didn’t represent the Office’s views.

So far, the most palpable reforms into the direction of household registration are reportedly in progress in Guangdong Province.

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