Officials’ long-time practice of requiring special family-planning permits before parents can secure hukou residency papers for their babies is “clearly illegal”, according to lawyers and scholars who are calling for an end to such restrictions.
The 32 experts wrote a letter to the National People’s Congress and State Council yesterday urging the central government to remove the extra paperwork and issue hukous based on birth certificates alone, as stated by law.
Hukou, or household registrations, affords permanent residency status. There is a gap between the social benefits urban and rural hukou holders are entitled to. Those without hukou do not have legal status and hence cannot apply for social benefits or even apply for a passport.
Some local administrations require parents to provide birth-permission certificates or receipts proving they have paid fines for breaching the one-child policy.
“Some local authorities’ regulations are clearly illegal,” lawyer Huang Yizhi, who signed the letter, was quoted by The Beijing News as saying. “They conflict with the existing laws and also the regulations issued by the state departments.”
The joint letter urged China’s highest executive body, the State Council, along with the ministries of security, education and health to forbid such practices. It asked public security organisations to release hukou based on birth certificates.
The experts pointed out that the public security ministry and the former Family Planning Commission (now absorbed by the health ministry), issued documents stating that a birth-permission certificate should not be a prerequisite for obtaining hukou.
But local authorities imposed this anyway to strictly monitor adherence to the one-child policy and to raise funds through fines for multiple births.
A total of US$2.7 billion in fines were collected by 19 mainland local governments in 2012, according to Wu Youshi, a lawyer in Zheijiang province and a proponent of the letter.
In one famous instance, famed filmmaker Zhang Yimou paid 7.5 million yuan (HK$9.4 million) to the Binhu district family planning bureau in Jiangsu province earlier this year for fathering seven children – three with his current wife.
Numerous children have been denied residency as their parents could either not afford the fines or were unable to secure birth-permission certificates.
Previously, in December, 10 scholars and lawyers made a similar call to remove barriers to hukou. They have yet to receive a reply.
However, this month, both Shandong province and Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province, issued orders that babies will be issued hukous if their parents show birth certificates.