Shanghai Rolls Out Temporary Residence Permits (Story in Chinese)

September 30, 2004

An article appearing in the Beijing News discussed Shanghai's new Temporary Regulations on Residence Permits, which enter into force on October 1, 2004. The Regulations require residence permits of anyone residing in Shanghai over 3 days. According to the article, individuals staying in hotels or hospitals are exempt from the requirement.

Materials required of applicants include evidence of stable employment or educational qualifications, if employed, and other materials as appropriate, if in Shanghai for school or for family reasons.

Possession of a temporary residence permit entitles one numerous benefits, including: 1) the ability to apply for education of one’s children, 2) the ability to receive social welfare, 3) the ability to be employed by a government agency.

In interviews, Chinese officials emphasize that individuals who fail to acquire temporary residence permits will face no coercive punishments (as distinguished from prior residence permit regimes). However, both the imposition of application criteria requiring evidence of “stable employment” and the explicit link between possession of residence permits and the provision of social services is troubling. In particular, it creates the possibility of the emergence of a disenfranchised rural migrant underclass, performing low-wage jobs which do not satisfy the “stable employment” criteria, and cut off from the social services their urban neighbors enjoy.

Chinese officials also emphasize that registration issues with regard to temporary residence permits have been taken out of hands of public security bureaus (PSB) and given to local street committees, evidencing a more “humane” approach. This is indeed technically true with regard to the registration process itself, however article 7 of the Regulations clearly states that overall management and issuance of temporary residence permits remains the responsibility of the PSB.

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