China says it will allow millions of unregistered citizens – many of them children born in violation of the one-child policy – to obtain documents vital to secure education and health services long denied to them, state media reports say.
An estimated 13 million Chinese, or one percent of the country’s total population, do not have proper household registration permits, or “hukou”.
Some of them are orphans, but many more are people born in violation of the highly controversial “one-child policy”, which restricted most couples to only one offspring, and barred any extra from being registered unless their parents paid a hefty fine, which many could not afford.
Known as “black children”, they are unable to go to school or obtain formal employment, and often have problems travelling, among other difficulties.
The policy’s replacement with a two-child rule for all was announced in October, and the government promised to “fully resolve the hukou registration problem for unregistered people” at a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency.
“It is a basic legal right for citizens to lawfully register for hukou,” the statement said.
“It is also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfil duties.
“We will deal with and protect every citizen’s rights to permanent hukou registration according to the law,” it said.
Enforcement of the family planning policy has always varied across China, and a few local authorities have already said they will start granting hukou to people whose parents have not paid the fines.
But the new policy will still have to be implemented area by area, and some families have previously complained that no changes have been made “on the ground”, no matter what reforms were promised by higher officials.