03/02/2010, 00.00
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Common editorial to demand end to forced residence (hukou)

by Wang Zhicheng
The article published in 13 newspapers. The hukou has increased the gap between urban and country residents. For decades, migrant farmers were exploited as cheap labour, without benefit from public health, education or justice system. There is some ambiguity: migrants are needed in the cities now more than ever: industries lack manpower to increase domestic demand to overcome the economic crisis.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - At least 13 Chinese newspapers published a common editorial yesterday asking the government to abolish the hukou system, the required certificate of residence, which restricts movements and benefits of the population, especially farmers.

The editorial was published with only a few days to go until the National Assembly of the People, the parliamentary assizes which meets once a year to legislate over the nation, to push for the abolition of this system of population control.  

The hukou was introduced in 1958 to curb the savage urbanization and block the farmers to work the land. After Deng Xiaoping's modernization, the growing industrial towns have increasing relied on the manpower of the migrants from the countryside. But not having the residence in the cities, migrants have been exploited as a labour force, without being granted the benefits of residence, such as healthcare, education for their children, or justice.

The editorial states that the hukou system has increased the gap between urban and rural populations, opening a corrupt market in sales of false certificates of residence.  

The article also emphasizes that the hukou is against the Chinese constitution and that "all men are born free to move." The article asks the authorities to "launch a reform and move away from the ossified system of hukou”.  

The editorial notes that leaving people free to decide where to live, will only increase and stabilize the domestic demand for goods so necessary for China's economy in this period of crisis. There is another ambiguity which arises from the newspapers demands: many factories in the coastal areas are struggling to find a workforce. The "benefit" of hukou could offer more incentives to farmers to migrate to the cities.

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