China’s frustrated migrant workers rise up

BEIJING, July 3, 2011 (AFP) – Migrant worker Yue Yaowei has lived in Beijing for six years but is not recognised as a resident of the Chinese capital — and so cannot get health insurance, buy a car or purchase a house. “I am under big pressure here,” Yue, 24, told AFP at a duck restaurant in central Beijing where he earns about $400 a month as the head waiter.

“I don’t have much savings after buying clothes, gifts for my family and going out with friends.”

Yue is one of tens of millions of migrant workers around the country tied to a residency registration in their home town which largely prevents them from accessing a range of public services once they move to other cities.

The so-called “hukou” system — which the government has vowed to reform — was introduced in the 1950s to curb potentially destabilising population flows from the countryside to the cities, in a nation recovering from civil war.

It has fuelled resentment among migrants, as has widespread discrimination against the army of low-paid workers, sometimes spilling over into violent unrest.

Unlike their parents, young migrant workers — the second generation — are more aware of their rights, and are increasingly frustrat