Since 2010, the Beijing municipal government has been strengthening the city’s household registration policy due to an excessive population. This has made it increasingly difficult for “Beijing drifters” — Chinese citizens living in Beijing without household registration in the city — to become official residents of the capital.

When Beijing’s population surpassed 20 million in 2010, the municipal government started adopting stricter household registration policies to control its population. By the end of 2013, more than 21 million people were residing in Beijing, and in 2015, Beijing officials announced they would cap the city’s population at 23 million by 2020.

In addition to strengthening household registration policies, amending existing regulations for enrolment in elementary school is another strategy the Beijing government has adopted to deal with its excessive population.

Before 2002, children aged six to 15 years old could not enroll in school if their parents did not have household registration in Beijing. Therefore in 2002, the municipal government launched a policy requiring Beijing drifters to turn in certificates to obtain “education permits” for their children.

Certificates required back then included temporary resident permits, proof of identification, and verification from Beijing authorities that proved the children did not have legal guardians in the cities in which they were registered citizens.

While the regulation was originally meant to benefit the drifters, the Beijing government has been requesting different certificates to be handed each year as a means to control the population. The threshold to obtain each certificate is also lifted every year. Drifters unable to secure “education permits” for their children have been forced to leave the city due to their children not able to receive an education.

In 2014, statistics showed that only 38 percent of Beijing drifters’ children obtained “education permits,” a drop of 7 percent from the previous year.

“Education permits” that were legal in the past might also become invalid due to amendments made to the policy that entail higher thresholds or require different certificates handed in. The government has closed down schools permanently to re-check permits and denied entry to those unable to show a valid permit.

Last September, nearly 500 students enrolled in Yuxing Elementary School in Beijing went to school to find that it was no longer open. According to Beijing officials, the school was closed due to “building security issues,” and only students whose families could provide them with a valid “education permit” could enroll in other public schools.

Liu Yuanjhu (劉遠舉), researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, says in a Financial Times article that “closing down schools and lifting the threshold for enrollment appear to be administrative orders on the surface, however it is obvious that the government is exercising its power by implementing these strict policies to cut down the population in Beijing.”

In 2010, an NGO was formed by a group of parents and activists to fight against the unfair education policy in Beijing. But the activists are facing difficulties, with lawyer Xu Zhiyong (許志永) sentenced four years in jail for "disturbing public order" in 2014.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole