This English translation was originally published on the China Partnership Blog on March 29, 2019, and is replicated here with permission. We thank Hannah, Brent, and the China Partnership translation team for their work. Background research information in the introduction.

Challenge #1: Registering Children for Hukous

“Single mothers face an urgent but thorny problem—how to register their children for hukous.[1]

Xiaojun, unwilling to meet in person or talk on the phone, sent me a personal account of her story. She wrote, ‘My child was not granted a birth certificate and still does not have a hukou. The family planning department created a case and fined me 80,000 RMB. They fined him (Xiaojun’s partner) over 100,000 RMB. Together the fines total over 200,000 RMB. They said even if I pay off my fine, our child cannot register for a hukou until both of our fines are paid. He will never pay the fine, so there doesn’t appear to be any hope that our child will get a hukou. She is almost three and about to enter preschool. Without a hukou, education will become a huge issue for her in the future.’

…[Chinese law] is saying that the only people who can legally give birth are married couples. By giving birth out of wedlock, single women violate this article, and their births are considered ‘illegal births.’

The family planning regulations in every province punish births out of wedlock, although the amount fined and the way in which couples are fined differ… In some provinces, single mothers face a more severe punishment if they have children with married men… Some provinces, however, do not distinguish between having a child out of wedlock with a married person and having a child out of wedlock with a single person…

To many unmarried mothers, the exorbitant social compensation fee is daunting. But if they do not pay off the fine, their children will not be able to register for a hukou. And if they do not register for a hukou, they cannot obtain citizenship. Consequently, they will be ineligible to receive social benefits like public education, healthcare, and social security. It will even be difficult for them to purchase train and air tickets for traveling.

These mothers rack their brains trying to get hukous for their children. Some obtain hukous by means of relationships with people back in their hometowns in the villages. The fines are less in the villages, but registering there means these children cannot attend public schools where they are currently living. Others register their child on another family’s hukou. And still others are quietly waiting for the census, hoping that during the census their children can obtain a hukou without spending any money. Among the single mothers I contacted, less than one third have successfully registered their child…”

[1] Translator’s note: The hukou system is an individual and household registration system in mainland China. It is similar to social security in the US. The process of registering for a hukou is strictly regulated. A hukou serves as a form of identification and also grants access to social benefits, including but not limited to public education, healthcare, employment, and housing compensation.

Prayer Points (China Partnership):

  • Where corruption is seen as the norm and integrity does not often amount to political gains, pray for the increase of wise, God-fearing officials who notice social injustices and labor to improve current laws for the common good.
  • Ask God to protect and provide for the children of unmarried parents, every one of whose lives he treasures.
  • Ask God to financially bless churches caring for single mothers so that they may provide diaconal assistance regarding the financial burdens single mothers face in China.

China’s Invisible Women, Challenge #2: Societal Discrimination Against Single Moms