Hukou 户口

Hukou 户口, residency permit. NJStar explains as number of households and total population; registered permanent residence. Not sure if I can still get my hukou? The reason that I didn’t live with my dad was due to the coveted Beijing hukou that he didn’t want to see me losing.

A lot of foreigners may feel confused when they came across the word “Hukou”, even though some of them might have lived in China for years. Here is a brief introduction on the Hukou system in China, you may be interested in it.

A Hukou or huji refers to the system of residency permits which dates back to ancient China, where household registration is required by law in People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. A household registration record officially identifies a person as a resident of an area and includes identifying information such the name of the person, date of birth, the names of parents, and name of spouse, if married.

A hukou can also refer to a family register in many contexts since the household registration record is issued per family, and usually includes the births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and moves, of all members in the family. A similar household registration system exists within the public administration structures of Japan, Vietnam, and North Korea. In South Korea the Hoju system was abolished on 1 January 2008.

Family registers were in existence in China as early as the Xia Dynasty (c. 2100 BCE – 1600 BCE). In the centuries which followed, the family register developed into an organization of families and clans for purposes of taxation, conscription and social control.

According to the Examination of Hukou in Wenxian Tongkao published in 1317, there was a minister for population management during the Zhou Dynasty named Simin, who was responsible for recoding births, deaths, emigrations and immigrations. The Rites of Zhou notes that three copies of documents were kept in different places. The administrative divisions in Zhou Dynasty were a function of the distance to the state capital. The top division nearest the capital was named Dubi, top division in more distant areas were named Xiang and Sui. Families are organized under the Baojia system.

Guan Zhong, Prime Minister of the Qi state 7th century BCE, imposed different taxation and conscription policies on different areas. In addition, Guan Zhong also banned immigration, emigration, and separation of families without permission. In the Book of Lord Shang, Shang Yang also described his policy restricting immigrations and emigrations.

Xiao He, the first Chancellor of the Han Dynasty, added the chapter of Hu as one of the nine basic laws of Han, and established the Hukou system as the basis of tax revenue and conscription.

Household Registration in Taiwan
When Taiwan was under Japanese rule from 1895 to 1945, the Japanese government maintained the same system of household registration (koseki) as they did in other parts of the Empire of Japan. This system of household registration, with minor changes, has been continued. Records concerning native Taiwanese are fairly complete. Records of mainlanders date back to the date they first applied for registration with the local household registration office, and are based on information provided by the applicant.

While all ROC nationals, including overseas Chinese with no connection to Taiwan, can apply for a ROC passport, proper household registration is required for obtaining a ROC ID Card, which is often used as proof of citizenship, such as in national elections, and an ID number is needed to open bank accounts. Unlike in mainland China, residency can be easily changed with the local authorities and household registration does not serve as a tool to limit a resident’s movements within Taiwan.

Special Administrative Regions
Hukou is not employed in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, though identification cards are mandatory for residents there.

Anna Lee

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