(Adds comments, details in paragraph 2,4,7-8)
BEIJING Dec 30 Three populous Chinese regions
plan to relax restrictions on the children of workers from rural
areas trying to enter university-track high schools, China
National Radio reported on Sunday, in an apparent response to
protests over discriminatory practices.
The planned changes come too late to help a teenager whose
plight has become a cause celebre among activists pressing for
reform of China's household registration, or hukou, regime.
Chinese high school students can only take university
entrance exams where they are registered, a stipulation that
effectively locks out the children of migrant workers in cities.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved to cities from
rural areas over the past three decades, but most migrants are
still treated as second-class citizens without the same access
to education, housing or health insurance as registered urban
Reformists had seized on the case of Zhan Haite, 15, the
daughter of migrants who had been raised in Shanghai but was
ineligible to attend a university-track high school there. Her
case triggered protests in Beijing and Shanghai this month,
while her father was detained for several days for campaigning
to secure education rights in Shanghai.
The rules as announced still do not treat the children of
migrants as equals of city residents with legal registration.
"It's not ideal. They have just made the regulations more
detailed, not changed the underlying situation," Zhan said from
her home in Shanghai. The new criteria were so strict that she,
and others like her, would still be ineligible, she said.
"I bet only 5 percent of the kids would meet the new
Beijing and Shanghai as well as Guangdong Province, whose
Pearl River Delta factories are a magnet for migrants, will
phase in access to the higher-education exams for students
living within their borders, China National Radio reported.
But in practice, academically gifted migrant children will
still face discrimination.
From 2016, Guangdong will allow migrant children to sit the
exams and apply to university on an equal footing with legal
Beijing and Shanghai plan to relax admission rules for
vocational-track schools and in some cases open the door to
university education to students who have first graduated from a
vocational school programme.
Migrant children may take the university exam in Beijing
from 2013 and in Shanghai from 2014, but their university
applications will still be processed in their legal hometown.
The children of migrants long resident in Beijing already
have some rights to attend elementary school, but in practice
they are often kept out by high fees, red tape and complicated
(Reporting by Lucy Hornby and Sabrina Mao; Editing by Louise