“If implemented at local level, this could change the lives of 13 million Chinese, who will now be allowed access to crucial services like education and health that they were previously excluded from.”
Many unregistered citizens in China will now receive hukous, granting them access to crucial services, like education and health, that they previously lacked. This impacts many of the children born in violation of the one-child family planning policy that has been in place for half a century. The hukou system was an attempt by the Chinese Government to control the movement of people between cities and the countryside. It requires all citizens to be classified as either rural or urban. Many critics liken it to a form of caste system. The hukou benefits are not limited to just schooling and medical treatment. To open a bank account, to get married, or even to buy a train or a plane ticket, one most have a hukou. So why are they just now making a change to grant these citizens basic welfare rights? There are many theories as to why the shift is taking place now. The Ministry of Security says they are concerned with social stability, since undocumented people often are forced to resort to unofficial or illegal means to survive. It could also be due to the frequent criticism of the Chinese Government regarding the current system. Internally and abroad, many see this as an infringement on Chinese citizen’s basic human rights. The biggest test will be whether there is any meaningful change that comes out of this current reform. In the past, the Government has promised hukou reforms, that eventually led to nothing substantial to those affected. Nevertheless, this is still good news, as it is a step in the right direction: registering all the “unofficial” people in China.