The distinction, if any, for family planning purposes, of a "rural resident household registration" and a "peasant registration" (or rural peasant household registry) [CHN38166.E]

While no reference could be found to either a "rural resident household registration" or a "peasant registration" (or rural peasant household registry), according to a post-doctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, whose area of specialization includes the household registration system in China, both terms refer to the agricultural or rural household registration (hukou) system (10 Dec. 2001).

According to the post-doctoral fellow, the Chinese Household Registration System was established during the 1950s by the new Chinese communist government as a means of solidifying administrative control, especially in regards to rural-urban migration (10 Dec. 2001). Under the system, all households are registered in the locale where they reside and are categorized as either agricultural or non-agricultural; sometimes also referred to as rural or urban (ibid.). The hukou registration contains such information as the holder's home address, registration type (i.e. rural or urban), education, birth year and marital status (ibid.).

As China's family planning programme (one-child policy), initiated in the late 1970s, followed the establishment of the hukou system, the agricultural hukou was not established solely for the purpose of family planning (ibid.). However, the hukou card is required in order to obtain access to education, social services and benefits, which are only open to local residents and thus aids family planning agencies' implementation of population control policies and regulations (ibid.). The post-doctoral fellow further stated that the consequences of the household registration system, coupled with the danwei (work unit) system in urban areas and the commune system in rural areas, has effectively been to create a social control system that has "enabled government to impose its will upon most citizens. The family planning programme is just one of such examples" (ibid.).

As well, according to the post-doctoral fellow, an individual wanting to move to a new locale permanently must also transfer his/her hukou (ibid.). As local governments hold the registration records, it is the task of the local government to keep track of residents, most importantly making sure that the one-child policy is adhered to (ibid.). In cases where an individual has changed his/her place of residence, that individual is beyond the administration of the local government of the migrant's original place of residence (ibid.). At the same time, the government in the migrant's new place of residence has no information regarding the background of this so-called floating population as it does not have access to the hukou registration information (ibid.). According to the post-doctoral research fellow, "this disjunction has created a blank area where government had no regulations or control over the sub population in the early 1990s" (ibid.). Some migrant couples have 3 or 4 children, far beyond the number that family planning policy allows, and, as a result, governments soon required that migrants temporarily register in the town where they are living and working (ibid.). In order to be issued temporary residential registration status, migrants must present their hukou (ibid.).

According to an April 2000 report issued by the US embassy in Beijing, which provides a translation of family planning rules for rural Henan County, "a couple may have a second child if one of the partners has an agricultural household registration, the woman is aged 28 or above, and four years have passed since their first child was born."

As well, several articles reported that families in poorer rural regions have been permitted to have more than one child (NZZ 2 Feb. 2001; Asia Times Online 24 May 2001; South China Morning Post 28 June 2001).

For further information on the household registration system, please refer to the Research Directorate's September 1998 Issue Paper "China: Internal Migration and the Floating Population," CHN32624.E of 8 September 1999 and the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Response to Information Request CHN99005.ZLA of 4 January 1999 available at

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Asia Times Online [Hong Kong]. 24 May 2001. Antoaneta Bezlova. "China to Formalize One-Child Policy." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2001]

Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung (NZZ). 16 February 2001. Ulrich Schmid. "Rethinking China's One-Child Policy: Cautious Liberalization of Family Planning." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2001]

South China Morning Post [Hong Kong]. 28 June 2001. "Beijing Relaxes One-Child Policy." (NEXIS)

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Abor. 10 December 2001. Correspondence.

_____. 9 December 2001. Correspondence.

US embassy, Beijing. April 2000. "PRC Family Planning Rules in Rural Henan County." [Accessed 17 Dec. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


Internet sites including:

China Daily

China Internet and Information Center

Family Health International

Far Eastern Economic Review

People's Daily

Population and Family Planning Laws, Policies and Regulations

State Family Planning Commission of China

World News Connection (WNC)