China Digital Space

Temporary residence

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暂住 (zàn zhù): temporary residence

Lining up at a Beijing police station in Beijing in 2008. The city stepped up its enforcement of temporary residence permits before the Olympics. (Beijing Daily)
Police officer weeding out people without the proper permit. (Southern Metropolis Weekly)
Runner #2 is chained to a post labeled “out-of-town residency.” (Global Times)
Permit to work or live in certain major cities required for those without local household registration (户口 hùkǒu) must obtain to work or live in 21 cities in China [zh], including the metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing. Those in the cities without a temporary residence permit may be fined or deported.

While the disparity in development between China’s countryside and urban areas has made it economically necessary for many rural migrants to live as temporary residents in large cities, the permit system prevents them from enjoying the same privileges and rights as city natives.

The legality of these temporary residence permits is questionable, following the abolition of a similar national system. Many scholars find cities’ current systems of temporary residence permits to be unconstitutional. However, cities such as Beijing and Shanghai insist that the permits are necessary to limit migration and maintain order. Some cities have changed the name of the permits from “temporary residence permit” to “residence permit” while retaining the same basic system.

Online, “temporary residence” is applied to all Chinese citizens. Without the right to own property, and with many forced out of their homes for development, everyone and everything is impermanent:

@空煜断锦: We don’t have any land, houses, even cemeteries that truly belong to us. We don’t have the right to choose how many children we have, to cross the border freely, or to speak freely. We don’t have the power to protect ourselves from unfair treatment. We aren’t citizens, we are denizens, renters with temporary residence on this piece of earth called China.

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