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Scandals over hukou

China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-01 07:34

The criminal detention of four police officers and three others involved in the recent case of a woman counterfeiting multiple identities to buy luxury real estate should not be the end of the authorities' handling of the scandal. Instead, it should be the start of a thorough probe into possible similar malpractices across the country and loopholes in its household registration system.

The Ministry of Public Security confirmed that the seven people detained had roles in the scandal in which Gong Aiai, a former deputy chief of a rural commercial bank in northwestern Shaanxi province, possessed 41 properties in Beijing alone under four hukou, or household registrations. The value of the real estate is estimated at 1 billion yuan ($160 million).

The four police officers are suspected of facilitating Gong's acquisition of different identities under fake information certificates in violation of household registration management regulations.

In another case, Zhang Yan, an official with the disciplinary watchdog in Yuncheng, a city in Shanxi, illegally registered her hukou in both Yuncheng and Beijing with the help of her husband during his tenure as a police chief of a local county, which also sparked a public outcry.

These two hukou counterfeiting scandals came shortly after Zhai Zhenfeng, a district housing administrative official in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, was arrested following media reports that he and other family members were found to own 31 houses using dual household registrations.

While the public has expressed extreme outrage at the possession of multiple properties by some local officials under a variety of identity records, a means of evading government monitoring of officials' personal information, including their property holdings, a question has also been raised over the reason why the institutional door has been opened so easily to such counterfeiting. Is there any regular trading of interests in the chain?

There are justifications for such concerns following the media disclosure that a second hukou can be bought for about 100,000 yuan. At a time when housing prices have soared across the country, owning multiple hukou will enable a person to sidestep government regulations regarding property ownership. It also enables the holder to enjoy education and medical care in another city.

The repeated exposure of hukou counterfeiting scandals in recent months is convincing evidence that the country's household registration system is riddled with problems and needs to be streamlined.

(China Daily 02/01/2013 page8)

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