Sat, Sep 04, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Chinese census highlights growing rights awareness

AP, BEIJING

Census takers counting China’s more than 1.3 billion people already face a daunting task, and it’s getting harder for the latest once-a-decade update.

After years of reforms that have reduced the government’s once-pervasive involvement in most people’s lives, some Chinese are proving reluctant to give up ­personal information and harbor suspicions about what the government plans to do with their details.

“Along with China’s development, the people’s awareness of legal, personal and privacy rights has been increasing,” said Ji Lin (吉林), executive vice mayor of Beijing, whose office is overseeing the census in the capital.

Accounting for a population more than four times the size of the US is set to take place from Nov. 1 to 10. Currently, census volunteers are going door-to-door across China, taking an initial poll of how many people live in each home and recording cellphone numbers so workers can get in touch when the census officially begins.

Taking an accurate census in China is particularly difficult task given the millions of migrant workers. Another complicating issue is children born in violation of the country’s one-child policy, many of whom are unregistered and therefore have no legal identity. They could number in the millions.

In cities like Beijing, though, census workers have encountered residents reluctant to allow the volunteers into their homes or answer their questions.

“Some people resist it because they may worry about how the information might be used by the government to investigate their wealth, for example, how many properties they have or perhaps they don’t want their ‘gray income’ to become public. These people are often rich or corrupt,” said Liu Shanying (劉山鷹), associate researcher with the Institute of Political Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Those concerns may be well-founded. The State Statistics Bureau will use the census to examine the real estate market in parts of several cities to determine how many homes were purchased by speculators and are sitting empty, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

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