Handbook on Human Rights in China
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Handbook on Human Rights in China

Edited by Sarah Biddulph and Joshua Rosenzweig

This Handbook gives a wide-ranging account of the theory and practice of human rights in China, viewed against international standards, and China’s international engagements around human rights. The Handbook is organised into the following sections: contested meanings; international dimensions; economic and social rights; civil and political rights; rights in/action and access to justice; political dimensions of human rights in Greater China; and new frontiers.
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Chapter 21: Movement and migration

Ming Xia


Freedom of movement/migration has been a major contention between the state and society in China since the Communist rule. Under the dominant logic of political/social control, the state (mainly under a totalitarian mode) has deleted the right of movement/migration from the current constitution and maintained a draconian residential registration system (hukou) that created a multi-layered and rigidly regulated hierarchy from big cities to townships and the countryside. As market-oriented reforms started and urbanization accelerated since 1980s, China has become more mobile. The emerging sense of citizenship among newly rich residents, especially among intellectuals, has generated increasing demand for the freedom of movement/migration. However, the state has continued to use and abuse its administrative control over the freedom of movement, e.g., the forced migration of the marginalized and free travel reserved as a privilege for the elite. The unfreedom of movement/migration is still the norm in China of the 21st century.

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