Friday, May 2, 2008

Keep Your Lover Close, Your Government Closer

I went to visit a German friend I met a few months ago to see her four-and-a-half month old baby and her Chinese husband.

The little boy is absolutely adorable, big round chubby face, tufts of light brown hair and dark-bluish eyes. He's a really good baby and entertains himself by cooing and playing with mobiles above him.

My friend showed me her baby's birth certificate in a green plastic booklet and then a red booklet, both about the same size as a passport.

Her husband said he only got the red booklet just over a month ago and showed me the company chops he had to get from his office to prove that he had one child. With this passbook, his son will be entitled to have hukou, or permanent residency in Beijing. Having a hukou will allow him to get into schools easier, get work, and entitle him to housing subsidies when he wants to buy an apartment.

His father is a Beijinger, so naturally his child has hukou. But if and when they have a second child, that one will not be allowed to have hukou, as far as the parents know.

It's a bit of a gray area at the moment when it comes to intermarriages. There aren't that many mixed kids in the country yet, but eventually the government will have to decide if a mixed-race child born in China should get the same rights and privileges as an ethnic Chinese baby.

What was also interesting was that my friend should have had this red booklet before she gave birth to her baby. But because she is a foreigner, she was considered a different case and let off the hook.

But if she had been a Chinese mother-to-be, a hospital may have accepted, her, but paperwork would have been more difficult to process. Her husband pointed out the booklet kept records of where you worked, your health check-ups -- and even recorded the number of times contraception failed to work.

In the 1970s, couples couldn't get married without the permission of their work teams, or even get pregnant without the communist party's blessing. If not, you could freely get condoms from the leader of the work unit -- if you dared.

And while China has become developed and sophisticated especially in its major cities, it still follows such archaic rules where the government even takes note of your sex life -- in a little red book.

1 comment:

ks said...

all this is because of 1.3 b mouths to feed. there is no real good solution to this. inter-marriage would post another problem. what is the other nationality the baby going to take. German? or Chinese?