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20 million affected by floods in Pakistan

by Griff Witte

islamabad, pakistan — Pakistan on Saturday sharply increased its estimate of the number of people affected by this summer’s catastrophic floods to 20 mil- lion, and the United Nations said that 6 million of those victims lack access to food, shelter and water. The floods, which continue to inun-

date new parts of the country, have caused a humanitarian disaster that has overwhelmed the capacity of both the government and international aid groups. Foreign assistance has been slow in arriving, and aid organizations warn that many more deaths could follow un- less flood victims receive help soon. On Saturday, U.N. officials confirmed

the first cholera case among survivors. As people go without access to clean drinking water and basic health services, deadly cholera outbreaks can spread quickly. Other cases are suspected among the tens of thousands of people suffering from diarrhea and fever. Revising an earlier official estimate

PENG NIAN/IMAGINECHINA VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS Chinese children are entitled to a state education, but tens of millions born to migrant workers are among the most vulnerable to the registration system. In China, chafing under ancient permits


Critics say ‘hukous’ are outdated and discriminatory

by Keith B. Richburg in beijing

Wang Aijun is the editor of the Beijing

News, one of China’s most influential pri- vate daily newspapers. Yet here in the capital, Wang said, he often feels like a second-class citizen. He pays Beijing taxes, but his teenage son is not allowed to attend a Beijing pub- lic high school. To install a telephone or an Internet line, he must pay in advance. He is charged more for a ticket to some city parks. He doesn’t qualify for a sub- sidized apartment. He cannot enroll his family in the city’s public health-insur- ance program. The reason for the discrimination? De- spite having lived and worked in Beijing for seven years, Wang still does not have that most sought-after of commodities: a Beijing “hukou.” One of China’s oldest tools of popula- tion control, the hukou is essentially a household registration permit, akin to an internal passport. It contains all of a household’s identifying information, such as parents’ names, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, moves and colleges attended. Most important, it identifies the city, town or village to which a person belongs. The hukou dates back at least 2,000 years, when the Han dynasty used it as a way to collect taxes and determine who served in the army. Mao Zedong’s Com- munist regime revived it in 1958 to keep poor rural farmers from flooding into the cities. It remains a key tool for keeping track of people and monitoring those the government considers “troublemakers.” Critics say the hukou system perpetu-

ates China’s growing urban-rural divide. Migrant workers flock to the coastal cities to labor in factories and take other manu- al jobs, sometimes living many years in places such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Because they lack an “urban

Some young people seeking a spouse on popular Internet sites will state up- front that they prefer a partner who has a Beijing hukou. “Girl, 26, from North China, 161 cm tall

. . . looking for a guy who was born be- tween 1976 and 1983 and wants to marry within three years,” says one posting on a popular site by a girl calling herself “imz- ly.” “I hope you . . . have a Beijing hukou (because I don’t have one).” The Beijing hukou is the most prized, if only because it is the hardest to get. One reason is education: The capital has the country’s most highly regarded universi- ties, and those schools reserve a large quota of places for Beijing hukou-holders. Chinese from outside the city can switch to a Beijing hukou by joining the civil service, getting a job with a state- owned company or achieving a high mili- tary rank.


A clinic nurse checks “hukou” cards while two women with a baby wait their turn. is very bad; it’s ridiculous.”

hukou,” they are forever designated “tem- porary residents” — unentitled to sub- sidized public housing, public education beyond elementary school, public med- ical insurance and government welfare payments. People who live in a city such as Beijing but do not have a local hukou must travel to their home towns to get a marriage li- cense, apply for a passport or take the na- tional university entrance exam. Parents and students say the last requirement is particularly onerous, especially if a stu- dent has to take the exam in a province that uses different textbooks. Some economists here say the hukou system is outdated and unsuited to a modern economy that requires the free movement of labor. Others call it “China’s apartheid,” saying it has created a two- tiered system of haves and have-nots in all the major cities. “You have a large number of rural mi-

grants who already earn most of their in- come in the cities, who have been in the cities a long time, but do not have hukou- related benefits,” said Tao Ran, an econo- mist at Renmin University. “This system

Life without a hukou White-collar professionals also find life more difficult if they happen to be born without the right hukou. Wang, 42, moved to Beijing seven years

ago from Zhengzhou, in Henan province, after he became editor of the Beijing News. The paper could not get him a Bei- jing hukou, but he took the job anyway. “I thought I should do something I was in- terested in,” Wang said. “I also thought China’s hukou system would be reformed in six or seven years.” He estimates that nearly a third of Bei-

jing’s 22 million-plus people do not have a Beijing hukou — including, he said, most members of his newspaper staff. Some re- ports put the number of temporary resi- dents in the capital at 8 million. “I’ve gotten used to living in Beijing without a hukou,” Wang said. “A hukou is like the air — you don’t think about it nor- mally. But once you need it and don’t have it, you get pretty upset.” Wang cited the fees he must pay for his 15-year-old son’s expensive international school.


Security forces kill 2 suspected militants Lebanese security forces killed two

suspected Islamist militants Saturday, including the leader of an al-Qaeda- inspired group that battled Lebanon’s army in 2007, military officials said. One of those killed was Abdul-Rah-

man Awad, a Palestinian leader of the Fa- tah al-Islam group. Awad’s aide, Ghazi Faysal Abdullah, was also killed in the shootout in eastern Bekaa Valley, offi- cials said. Awad was one of the most wanted men

in Lebanon. — Associated Press PAKISTAN

Alleged U.S. drone strikes kill 12 in N. Waziristan Suspected U.S. missiles killed 12 peo-

ple Saturday in North Waziristan, a Paki- stani tribal region filled with Islamist in- surgents bent on pushing Western troops out of neighboring Afghanistan, intelli- gence officials said. Also Saturday, gunmen targeted non-

ethnic Baluchis — some traveling on a bus and others painting a house — in two attacks in Baluchistan province Satur- day, killing 16 people and wounding eight.

A nationalist movement led by ethnic Baluch groups has long sought greater

autonomy from the central government for the southwestern province. — Associated Press


Curfews reimposed after deaths of 10 people Jamaican authorities imposed new

curfews in communities west of the cap- ital, Kingston, after 10 people were killed in gang attacks and a shootout with po- lice last week. The order applies to Tredegar Park, where dozens of residents fled their homes last year during gang clashes be- fore soldiers arrested about 100 people. A curfew imposed during the hunt for

alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke was recently lifted.

— Associated Press

6 migrants killed near Egypt-Israel bor- der: Six African migrants were shot dead near Egypt’s border with Israel, the high- est migrant death toll in one day at the border in recent years. Four were killed by smugglers and two were shot by Egyp- tian police. The Sinai Peninsula is used as a transit route by African migrants seeking work or asylum in Israel, as well as by smugglers of drugs and weapons.

2 more protesters killed in Kashmir: Two people were shot dead Saturday by security forces as deaths continued to mount during weeks of defiant protests

against India’s rule over the predomi- nantly Muslim region of Kashmir. At least 57 people have been killed since June, and tens of thousands of Kashmiris staged demonstrations Friday after gov- ernment forces killed four people. Satur- day’s incidents occurred in Anantnag, a town south of the region’s main city, Sri- nagar, and in Narbal, to the north.

Dozens of wildfires rage in Portugal: More than 600 firefighters were battling at least 26 serious wildfire outbreaks in three areas of Portugal. Fires fanned by strong winds have flared near southwest- ern Sintra; in an area close to the north- ern border with Spain; and in the central Serra da Estrela national park. — From news services

In the 1990s, some cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, be- gan allowing people to acquire a local hu- kou if they bought property in the city or invested a large sum of money. Shanghai further relaxed the rules last year so that professionals who have lived in the city for seven years as tax-paying temporary residents could qualify. The Beijing government has taken sev-

eral small steps toward hukou reform over the years. A Beijing pension can now be transferred to another city, for exam- ple, and the city’s public kindergartens and grade schools were recently opened to all students, regardless of hukou sta- tus.

Some critics advocating an overhaul of

the hukou system — or abolishing it alto- gether — said changes must be gradual to avoid large-scale disruption. Some have recommended assigning hukous by in- come or giving priority to those who have paid taxes in a city. Whatever the pace of change, experts said, the hukou has outlived its useful- ness. “Migration is inevitable,” said Tao of Renmin University. “We’re proposing the government should just open all the cit- ies.”

Researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

that 14 million people had been affected by the floods, Prime Minister Yousaf Ra- za Gillani said Saturday that 20 million — nearly 12 percent of the population — had been displaced. His televised re- marks were among the few official ac- knowledgments of Pakistan’s independ- ence day, which passed amid general gloom.

About 1,600 people have died during the floods, which began nearly three weeks ago and threaten to have a long- term impact on Pakistan’s development and stability.

“If not managed, the dislocation of such a large number of people who have been deprived of their homes and liveli- hood coupled with the destruction of vast chunks of largely agricultural terri- tory along the country’s core Indus River region can easily translate into massive social unrest,” the analytical firm Stratfor said in an assessment. The nation has already been racked by a bloody insurgency by Taliban fighters who object to Pakistan’s alliance with the United States in the war in neighboring Afghanistan. With the Pakistani army taking the most prominent role in the government’s relief efforts, concern has grown in Washington that the flood will detract from the country’s battle against Islamic militants. Pakistani troops have waged relatively successful offensives over the past year and a half in the Swat Valley and in South Waziristan, but those gains could be undermined as the army’s atten- tion shifts. The United States had been pressing

Pakistan to launch an offensive in North Waziristan, where al-Qaeda and several major Taliban groups are active. Pakistan has been reluctant to go in, and now the floods make it even less likely that its generals will open another front. “The army still needs time to recover” from South Waziristan and Swat, said a Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said that a possible offensive in North Waziri- stan had “been discussed for the fall,” but that now, “I don’t foresee it.” Pakistani military officials insist the floods will not take away from their counterinsurgency operations and that the civilian government will be primarily responsible for rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by the floods. Pakistan’s civilian government has been widely assailed here for its lacklus- ter response to the disaster. President Asif Ali Zardari has drawn particularly sharp criticism for traveling to Europe in the midst of the crisis. On Saturday, he toured a relief camp. The United States has committed at least $76 million to recovery efforts, and two additional Navy helicopters arrived Saturday to assist with the distribution of food. In all, 19 U.S. choppers have been ordered into Pakistan.


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