Guangdong Police Complain About Security Problems Stemming From Flow of Migrants

March 12, 2005

In an article published on February 16, the China Daily discusses population pressures in Guangdong province, which recently replaced Henan as the most populous province in the country. Guangdong reportedly has a population of 110 million, including 79 million permanent residents and 31 million migrants. Guangdong officials cited in the article complained that the migrant population, China’s largest, was creating problems for public security there. According to the province’s director of public security, Liang Guoju, more than 80 percent of the 510,000 criminal cases filed in Guangdong in 2004 involved migrants. Liang also noted that the provincial population is increasing much faster than the number of police, with only 12.9 police per 10,000 people, a smaller ratio than either Beijing or Shanghai.

Before 2003, public security agencies throughout China had the power to detain and forcibly repatriate migrants under China’s custody and repatriation system. In the summer of 2003, this system was repealed in the wake of public controversy over the case of Sun Zhigang, a student who had been detained in the C&R system and died in custody, and replaced with a system of voluntary aid shelters. Since this reform was instituted, police in Guangzhou and other cities have complained about increases in petty crime and an explosion of beggars and vagrants on the streets. In October 2003, a spokesman for the Ministry of Civil Affairs indicated that measures were being considered to deal with a sudden influx of beggars in urban areas. In January 2004, the South China Morning Post reported that authorities in Guangzhou were considering new measures to restore some of the powers that police had under the custody and repatriation system. Although significant new coercive systems do not appear to have been implemented, the China Daily’s effort to highlight the problems allegedly caused by migrants may be an indication that they are still under consideration.