• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 7:25am

Academic outraged at request for hukou in UK visa application

Academic is angry after staff at embassy asked for his household registration document

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 7:41am

A prominent mainland rural affairs expert has called on the British embassy in Beijing to change its visa-application policies after he was asked to provide a household registration document to travel to the country.

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Rural Development Institute, Professor Yu Jianrong, said he was enraged when the workers from the embassy's outsourced visa application centre demanded the document in addition to his passport and national identity card.

The household registration, or hukou, system has long been criticised by Yu and other rural affairs experts, as it prevents mainland rural migrants from accessing education, health care and housing when they move to cities to find work.

"I was deeply humiliated because I was not required to provide any hukou document when I was applying for visas to France and the United States after 9/11," Yu told the Sunday Morning Post.

He applied for the visa on Thursday after receiving a speaking invitation from the London School of Economics at a forum later this year.

Yu, who arrived at the centre, as is his style, wearing an old overcoat, rejected an offer of help from a Chinese man at the office.

"The man said that I could engage him as a visa fixer, so he could help me get exempted from providing the hukou document," Yu said.

The incident comes amid growing calls to reform the system from inside and outside the government. Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun yesterday ordered local police chiefs, who handle routine hukou matters, to co-operate with other agencies in reforming the system, state television reported.

Yu, called on the central government to introduce hukou reform last year, as part of a 10-year outline for mainland social and political development.

"I demand that the British government stop requiring Chinese applicants to provide a hukou document, which is a discriminatory system created under the planned economic era of the last century and conflicts with today's common international values," Yu wrote in an open letter to the British government.

Yu said the British diplomat had since apologised and scheduled a meeting between the professor and British ambassador Sebastian Wood on Tuesday.

The British embassy was unavailable for comment.

"I think the British embassy felt sorry after I vowed that I would not visit the country if they insist that I give them the hukou booklet," Yu said, promising to wear the same tattered overcoat when he meets the ambassador.


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This article is now closed to comments

The outsourcing agency VFS, who the Chinese embassy in London also use to outsource Chinese visa applications to, make no decision on visas only consular staff do. I applied for UK visa twice for a Chinese ex and got the visa issued within a week both times. I was surprised they asked for the Hukou book, so much so the first time we did not bring it. They said we could apply without it but it would increase the chances of the visa being approved if we included it. Apparently it is so they can check on the location of your family members, if you have family in the UK they think you are less likely to return but it is just one detail in the much bigger picture of you they are checking. Still I agree with the article, the British should not be endorsing the Chinese hukou system.
It would be very important to clarify if the outrageous request for the hukou was asked by a member of the staff of the visa outsourcing company or by a UK diplomat. If it was the former, the UK Embassy should review the terms these outsourcers carry out the visa application service. If it was the latter, a public apology is needed, but an apology from London.
The British government should drop visa requirements for Chinese nationals visiting Britain. Two decades ago it is true that many poor Chinese mainland people strove to leave the country and if they gained a foothold in Europe would often overstay as illegal immigrants. In Europe they were then frequently exploited by Europe's criminal gang masters organizing illegal cheap labour.
All this has changed in recent years. Many of those who did overstay in Europe have since returned to China because their economic chances for economic success are greater back at home. In fact, there is now a stream of Europeans clambering to get into China for employment opportunities, and quite few work there illegally.
Chinese tourism provides a massive economic benefit to the United Kingdom and it is time for the British government to drop their racist "yellow peril' mindset and admit Chinese nationals without visas. Immigration officers would still retain the right to deny entry to those who arrive with insufficient means of support while in the country, just as China should similarly reject foreign nationals who arrive almost penniless. Applications for political asylum made in Britain should also be instantly rejected. There is now absolutely no justification for Chinese nationals to be granted asylum anywhere in the West.
Blame foreigners for your own country's outdated system from the last century! That will help.
You can .........but others cant
I have had this problem in the past when getting a UK visa for my Chinese wife. The outsource agency are expensive and arrogant in the extreme. They seem only to want to find any excuse to reject an application and keep the fee nonetheless. You then have to pay again to reapply. In the end I appealed directly to the consulate in GZ. I personally had to go there for an interview with her to explain why she did not plan staying in the UK for illegal employment. She got a visa in the end. (British businessman with factory in China)


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