03/16/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Migrant workers find a champion, Wang

"Migrant workers are discriminated against by urban people", National People's Congress deputy Wang says. He proposed drafting a law to protect the rights of migrant workers.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Scmp) - "Migrant workers are discriminated against by urban people", Wang  Guancheng, born in Shandong and National People's Congress deputy says.

Born into a poor family of seven children in 1967, Wang Yuancheng did not know what it felt like to wear a pair of socks until he was old enough to go to high school. He dropped out of school when he was about 15 because his family could not continue to support his studies and in his early 20s headed to Taian , a city of about 400,000 people at the time. Mr Wang spent much of the next five years printing business cards before investing in the city's first computer training school. The school is still running today and offers half-price tuition to migrant workers and villagers.

He opened up a hotline for migrant workers in 2001 to help people from the countryside, but found that many problems could not be solved. "If I want to help 100 million people by myself, I must resort to legal means to promote legislation and legal improvements." In 2003, when he was elected to the NPC, he proposed drafting a law to protect the rights of migrant workers. His suggestions included dropping administrative discrimination against migrants, penalising employers who failed to pay back wages and establishing medical insurance for migrant workers.

"Even though I have been away from the village for nearly 20 years, and I have the urban hukou [residency permit], I am still a farmer, and I am still one of the migrant workers," Mr Wang said. "The lives of migrant workers are miserable. They have to live in makeshift shelters, eat the cheapest bean curd and cabbage. They have no insurance and their wages are often delayed."

This year Mr Wang proposed a regulation on equality in education. He said that to describe an educational institution as a school for migrant workers' children was discriminatory and every public school should admit some children of migrant workers. "Why do urban children have better schools than rural children?" he said. "[Migrant children's] parents are humiliated [as migrant workers], and they are again discriminated against, so their hearts will be hurt and they will hate society when they grow up, posing a risk to society."

He said the permanent residence system and regional university admission quotas hindered rural young people from gaining fair access to education.

Mr Wang also called for incentives to encourage accomplished rural people to return from the cities to their villages.

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