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Problems Haunting Beijing's Non-natives

During this year's Beijing Municipal People's Congress and Political Consultative Conference, the issue of the city's migrant population has become a focus of debate.

According to sources from Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau's Population Administration Department, the capital currently has a migrant population of 3.649 million. This figure comprises those who stay in the city for over three days and who register with the police for a temporary residence permit.

A survey released by Beijing News on January 28 identified six major problems that continue to trouble non-natives' daily lives. Many point out that it's probably time for new measures to replace out-of-date population administrative policies that have unreasonable effects on people's lives.

Temporary residence permits

In accordance with the municipal government's regulations, Industry and commerce agencies cannot grant business licenses, labor authorities cannot release work permits, and individuals cannot provide houses to let for non-natives without a temporary residence permit.

Miss Ouyang moved to Beijing a year ago, but on registering with a driving school, she was unexpectedly asked to produce her temporary residence permit.

She went to get one from a police substation, but was perplexed by the overly elaborate paperwork required. To apply for a permit, if she lived in her own house, she was told she needed to present the purchase contract; if she lived in a rented house, she would have to submit both a recommendation from the neighborhood committee and the house's property certificate.

Ouyang happens to live in the home of a friend who hasn't applied for a house property certificate. With no alternatives left, a depressed Ouyang saw her dream of learning how to drive shattered.

The purpose of asking for a non-native's temporary residence permit is to keep track of future drivers in case of accidents. Otherwise the driving school said it would be held jointly liable.

As only native Beijingers are eligible to buy economy houses, last November Mr. Wang, who is from Heilongjiang Province, decided to apply for a bank loan to purchase a two-room commercial apartment.

However, whilst making the first payment, Wang was asked to show his temporary residence permit. Having lived in the city without the permit for seven years, Wang had to spend an anxious day applying for it. He still shudders when recalling the experience.


Beijing's municipal government listed very specific terms in its 2004 admission brochure for civil servants and government officers: applicants must be under 35 years old, have received at least a junior college education, and in particular, have registered permanent residence in the capital.

Even some state ministries and commissions have similar discriminative recruitment policies.

Mr. He, a graduate student, took the Ministry of Commerce's civil service examination at the end of 2003. At first, everything went smoothly; but in the second round of examinations, examinees were asked to give their birthplace.

He failed the examination and chose to teach in an institute in his native Henan Province instead. What's interesting is that of the six enrolled by the ministry that year, five came from Beijing.

An official from Haidian District's Civil Service Administration Department pointed out that a number of government bodies would rather not take non-natives on for accommodation and welfare reasons.

On many occasions, the doors of government organizations seem to be closed to non-natives. What about the employment situation in non-governmental enterprises?

Previously, Beijing imposed restrictions on the number of non-natives employed in over 100 vocations in broad fields like banking, insurance, postal services, real estate and advertising.

Despite a recent statement by Meng Xiancang, head of the Employment Department of Beijing Municipal Labor & Social Security Bureau (BMLSSB), saying the municipal government lifted these restrictions last year, discrimination against non-natives is reportedly still quite widespread.

A BMLSSB analysis of 50 corporations' job ads indicates that 20 percent had requirements based on appearance, gender, age, educational level, and particularly, birthplace.

Children's schooling

In the past, Beijing Municipal Education Commission laid down hard rules that students without registered permanent residence must make a special tuition payment to "study on a temporary basis." For each term they had to pay 200 yuan (US$25), 500 yuan (US$62.5) and 2,000 yuan (US$250) for attending elementary, junior secondary and senior secondary school respectively.

From time to time some schools also deliberately made things even harder for non-natives.

Last June, after paying the required 200 yuan, Yang Bin registered her child in a designated primary school. Unexpectedly, the school expressed a hope that Yang could contribute two electrical appliances.

Outraged, Yang refused to cooperate at first. But, thinking that her child's schooling would suffer, she felt she had to compromise. No sooner had she donated two appliances worth a total of 4,000 yuan (US$500) than the admission notice came.

"If I didn't make the donation, very possibly my kid would not be able to attend school; even if he did, he would surely be treated unfairly," Yang said.

A staffer from the education commission explained that according to regulations, after paying the "temporary schooling fee," non-native students are supposed to be exempt from sundry charges. Nevertheless, some schools continue to covertly demand a variety of additional fees, a practice that cannot be stopped by a single effort.

Since schools have also set caps on enrolments, coupled with discriminatory practices, non-native students are disadvantaged even more.

Fortunately, the municipal government has begun to introduce more flexible policies, and from September 1, 2004, they have been excused from the "temporary schooling fee" at public elementary schools and junior secondary schools, where compulsory education is implemented.

Car buying

According to traffic control authorities' rules, without acquiring a work and residence permit issued by the city's personnel bureau, a non-native is not entitled to purchase a car with a Beijing license plate.

Last May, Mr. Wu of Fujian Province wanted to buy a car for going to work. Without registered permanent residence, to make things easy he bought a second-hand Alto from a friend living in Chongqing. He did not anticipate the troubles that would follow.

It's prescribed that in the capital, drivers of cars with another city's license tag must apply for a monthly "entry permit." So, every month Mr. Wu had to go a long way to get the permit renewed.

Last December he prepared to emigrate abroad, but found that no one wanted to buy the car due to its Chongqing license tag. Finally, he resold it online at just half price.

A November meeting of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform planned to work out a series of policies aimed at promoting private car consumption. It's reported that residence-related limitations on car purchase will be lifted in the near future.

The capital's traffic control authorities said that, to support the reform, they would do their best to map out relevant regulations for implementation this year.

Telephone installation

Since December 15, 2003, telecommunications providers have asked non-natives who apply to install home telephones either to find native Beijingers to be guarantors, or to make a prepayment of around 500 yuan (US$62.5).

Mr. Zhong, who faced numerous difficulties getting a telephone installed, said the measures were biased against non-natives. He had to shuttle back and forth between home and the telecommunications bureau for two weeks, before finally giving up and borrowing a resident friend's ID card to get it done deceitfully.

However, Beijing branches of China Netcom, China Mobile and China Unicom all claim the requirements have reduced losses incurred through unpaid bills, which were quite common before.

Yearly park ticket

People with a senior citizen certificate issued by the municipal government are entitled to get a yearly ticket for park visits for 50 yuan (US$6.25), and those with a retirement certificate can get one for 100 yuan (US$12.5), while other citizens pay 200 yuan (US$25).

With a yearly ticket, people can use Beijing's parks -- including the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and Beihai Park (the former Imperial Winter Palace) -- an unlimited number of times.

Sixty-three-year-old Wang was born in Beijing. After graduating from college he accepted an assigned job in another city. As his children were all grown up with families and careers of their own in the capital, several years ago he returned.

But, because he had lost his registered permanent resident status, he had to pay 200 yuan for the yearly ticket.

"I cannot understand this policy. People live in the same city but are treated in different ways," Wang said indignantly.

"In my youth, answering a call to support the country's construction, I went to another place and worked without complaint. After retirement I came back but found I was treated as a non-native. It's ridiculous," he said.

Responding to rising public censure, some parks said that issuing preferential monthly and yearly tickets relies on the municipal government's financial subsidy, so only Beijing citizens are qualified to enjoy it.

It's been reported that in new policies to be publicized this year, suggestions have been taken into consideration to withdraw the conditions on non-natives' monthly and yearly tickets.

(China.org.cn by Shao Da, February 14, 2005)

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