China will relax restrictions for its citizens hoping to permanently settle in small and medium sized cities, state media reported on Thursday, but changes in the biggest cities such as the capital Beijing will be more limited, reports Reuters. The public security ministry will promote the “comprehensive lifting” of urban settlement restrictions in cities with a permanent resident population of less than three million and “fully relax” settlement conditions for cities with a permanent resident population of three to five million, Beijing Daily reported.
The move signals that elements of China’s 14th five-year plan announced in 2021 are being implemented and marks a further relaxation of the ‘hukou’ household registration system which for decades has split people along urban-rural lines and thus determining their access to welfare, education and services.
Under the hukou system, hundreds of millions living and working in China’s cities have not been able to enjoy the same access to services as those with permanent residency. This has caused much resentment, for example because children, who are unable to attend schools in certain cities, have had to return to their distant home towns and be separated from their parents.