The New York Times opens its article with a short narrative, “Jessica Cherry looks like a typical 5-year-old. But in the eyes of the Chinese government she is invisible.” This is because her Scottish father and Chinese mother didn’t get a mandatory birth permit, making it impossible for Jessica to acquire a Chinese passport and other documents that define her Chinese citizenship. Her mother has applied for the permit 9 times but still cannot get one due to red tape with maze of “relevant departments” and a mountain of documents.
This goes back to our discussion of the discriminatory hukou system, which prevents migrant workers, or “second-class citizens”, from accessing social services such as schooling, housing and employment right where they live. For many people, the most troubling part is their child’s access to education. For example, only students with a Beijing hukou can take the exam in the capital, forcing young rural migrants with temporary residence permits to leave their families and head back to villages. There they face completely different textbooks and exam materials, and also the admission quotas set by the government that favor students from large cities.
Applying for a temporary residence permit is complicated enough. There are 14 required documents, including the hukou certificate, proof of residence, a diploma, a marriage license, an employment contract, the spouse’s identity card, spouse’s hukou, a certificate proving that they have only one child, etc.