Giv­ing mi­grants a break

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

Shang­hai faces un­prece­dented pres­sure from its fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion as peo­ple move in from other parts of China.

The pop­u­la­tion of per­ma­nent res­i­dents in Shang­hai rose from 13 mil­lion in 1990 to 17 mil­lion in 2001 to nearly 25 mil­lion to­day.

More than 10 mil­lion of the pop­u­la­tion hails from out­side Shang­hai. A press­ing chal­lenge for good gov­er­nance in Shang­hai is to co­or­di­nate pop­u­la­tion growth with the city’s de­vel­op­ment.

The ten­sion be­tween the pop­u­la­tion and the city, which is height­ened by limited re­sources and space, is not nec­es­sar­ily caused by the fast growth in pop­u­la­tion but by weak­ness in pop­u­la­tion man­age­ment and pub­lic ser­vices.

A well-de­signed and man­aged traf­fic sys­tem can hold many more au­to­mo­biles than a poorly man­aged one. De­spite Shang­hai’s over­pop­u­la­tion, there are many showcase huge town squares that are not prac­ti­cal for res­i­dents to use.

On one hand, many ex­pen­sive houses built for the rich are left empty for years.

On the other hand, many Shang­hai fam­i­lies of three gen­er­a­tions live un­der the same roof in slum ar­eas down­town, with­out ac­cess to flush toi­lets.

Ac­cord­ing to Ren Yuan, a pro­fes­sor of pop­u­la­tion stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity, mi­grant pop­u­la­tions do not nec­es­sar­ily cause more crime. In Shang­hai, fac­tors such as the lack of ed­u­ca­tion, un­em­ploy­ment, un­happy mar­riages and in­suf­fi­cient po­lice and se­cu­rity forces are the main causes of ris­ing crime.

Hence, it is un­rea­son­able to cut crime through con­trol­ling the mi­grant pop­u­la­tion and blam­ing them for crime.

Shang­hai’s gov­ern­ment should pay more at­ten­tion to equal­iz­ing ed­u­ca­tional and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, im­prov­ing the com­mu­nity en­vi­ron­ment and strength­en­ing pub­lic se­cu­rity ad­min­is­tra­tion. Pro­vid­ing bet­ter ser­vices for the peo­ple can, to some ex­tent, ef­fec­tively ease pop­u­la­tion pres­sure. Ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal care are crit­i­cal for peo­ple to find jobs and live a sta­ble life.

If the gov­ern­ment re­sorts to tight con­trols on the mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, as the Beijing gov­ern­ment does with a num­ber of dis­crim­i­na­tive poli­cies in trans­porta­tion, hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal care, the city will face even more se­ri­ous prob­lems and fric­tions among dif­fer­ent so­cial groups.

Fair­ness and jus­tice at­tract peo­ple to ci­ties. Ci­ties can­not de­vel­op­ment with­out the two prin­ci­ples and a set of good gov­er­nance mea­sures to trans­late them into ben­e­fits for all mem­bers.

The gov­ern­ment must abide the law while deal­ing with is­sues re­lated to mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, who mostly take on un­de­sir­able jobs in ci­ties. A city can­not sur­vive with­out their la­bor.

They de­serve fair treat­ment from the ad­min­is­tra­tive au­thor­i­ties and over­due chan­nels through which to sue over mal­prac­tice of the gov­ern­ment and of­fi­cials. The mi­grant pop­u­la­tion’s prop­erty rights and le­gal in­ter­ests must be pro­tected. The gov­ern­ment has no le­gal base to take so­cial sta­bil­ity as an ex­cuse to in­fringe upon the mi­grant pop­u­la­tion’s le­gal rights.

In 2011, Shen­zhen — China’s first eco­nomic spe­cial zone — drove away tens of thou­sands of mi­grants be­fore host­ing the World Univer­sity Games. It is ironic that a city that rose from the labors and wis­dom of mi­grant pop­u­la­tions in the 1980s and 1990s — turn­ing quickly from a fish­ing vil­lage to the sec­ond-largest econ­omy in Guang­dong — would take such ac­tion.

Shang­hai’s lo­cal cul­ture has a deep, his­tor­i­cal dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple from other parts of China and a blind wor­ship for for­eign­ers. Last month, a fa­mous Shang­hai sports an­chor, in a live broad­cast, openly cursed the vis­it­ing foot­ball team from north­ern part of Jiangsu prov­ince in China’s Su­per League match. The north­ern part is much poorer than Shang­hai and the south Jiangsu.

Although the Shang­hai gov­ern­ment is al­ready a model in many as­pects of gov­er­nance in China, it still needs to raise the le­gal con­scious­ness in gov­ern­ing and serv­ing the mi­grant pop­u­la­tion.

The gov­ern­ment needs to do more to pro­tect the mi­grant pop­u­la­tion’s le­gal in­ter­ests. This is a mod­ern gov­ern­ment’s legally bind­ing duty rather than a fa­vor for dis­ad­van­taged groups of peo­ple.

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