Migrant penalty reforms planned

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:00am

The Guangdong Government plans to change how it handles the detention of 'illegal' migrant residents, banning forced labour and fines that are often meted out to detainees.

The move is likely to be followed by other major cities across the country.

The Beijing Morning Post reported that China had set up more than 700 temporary detention centres during the past two years and more than one million people had been sent back home.

Guangdong had the largest number of detainees, followed by Beijing and Shanghai, it said.

The Southern Metropolis News said the proposal, which has been submitted to the provincial Communist Party, suggested some changes - among them, not to detain pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding. Those who are ill should be sent to hospital and can only be detained after recovering.

An official at the news office of the Civil Affairs Department confirmed that Beijing was considering similar changes nationwide to reform the 20-year-old policy.

In major cities, migrant workers can be arrested because they are not residents. They often are sent to detention centres in remote suburbs, where they are forced into labour until relatives buy their freedom or they earn enough to pay their way home.

The system has had tragic results. Local media reported that a migrant worker from Sichuan was beaten to death on the streets this year by police who had tried to detain him.

Also, a Hunan girl was raped and kept in a dark room for 48 hours by a self-proclaimed relative who picked her up at the detention centre.

It is understood local governments see the centres and fines as a way of making money out of the migrant workers.

Police officers have been known to tear up migrant workers' temporary residence cards so they can send them to detention centres.

Regulations regarding detaining migrants were implemented in 1982 when the State Council proposed detaining the homeless and beggars and sending them home in order to 'maintain social order'.

In 1991, the target was expanded to the 'three without' people - those who have no legal identity cards, no stable place to live and no stable source of income. In practice, the situation has become that if a migrant worker lacks any one of these, he or she can be detained.