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Shanghai's 'unwanted child' rails against policy

Publication Date : 13-02-2013


Every Chinese has a 'hukou', usually tied to their birthplace


Teenager Zhan Haite has lived almost all her life in Shanghai, but she hardly feels welcomed by the coastal metropolis.

As a child of migrant workers in Shanghai, Haite, 15, is not allowed to take the National College Entrance Examination, known as gaokao in Chinese, in the city.

Instead, she will have to part with her parents and return to her hometown in rural Jiangxi on her own to take the exam there.

"There's no one in our hometown to look after me. If I go back, I'm like a left-behind kid," she told The Straits Times.

Even now, she is already like a child unwanted by Shanghai.

Haite studies at home by herself as she cannot enrol in a high school because her father, who runs a phone-card business and has lived in Shanghai since 2002, does not have a hukou, or household registration permit, for the city.

Every Chinese has a hukou, usually tied to their birthplace.

Shanghai announced in December last year that it would allow migrant students to take the gaokao, but this is tied to stringent criteria, requiring one's parent to be a special talent, for instance.

"The policy is unfair. Only about 5 per cent can meet the requirement," said Haite's father, Zhan Quanxi, 46.

Both father and daughter have become famous in China for campaigning against gaokao restrictions on migrant children.

But detractors say Haite should be barred from the exam as Zhan had flouted the one-child policy by having three children.

Zhan, however, retorted that he is also contributing to Shanghai. "I definitely pay more taxes than many other families," he argued.

Their gaokao campaign through the media and Internet has invited death threats and insults, such as being labelled as "locusts".

But they are not giving up the fight. As Haite said: "I'm like a cockroach that can't be killed. I hope for a sudden breakthrough in the situation."


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