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China Cracking Down on Migrant Schools, Report Says - 2002-05-08

A human rights group says the Chinese government is cracking down on schools for migrant children in its cities, depriving poor students an education.

The group Human Rights in China says Chinese cities are closing migrant schools as part of their efforts to curb the flow of poor workers from the countryside.

Nicolas Becquelin, a researcher for the group in Hong Kong, says that at least half a dozen cities across China, including Beijing and Shanghai, have shut migrant schools over the past year. "It's very difficult to know how many schools are closed by the authorities under the pretext that they're illegal. In 2001, in the report, we document that about 50 migrant schools closed in Beijing's Fengtai district, which is one of the districts where there's a huge migrant population," Mr. Becquelin said. In its report released Tuesday, the group says that as a result of the crackdown, about 1.8 million Chinese children are denied education.

More than a hundred million migrants in China perform low-paid, low-skill jobs such as construction or cleaning. Hundreds of private schools catering to children of these migrants have been set up over the past decade.

The government says it is closing the migrant schools because they violate safety and hygiene standards. But Mr. Becquelin argues migrant children are barred from public schools by bureaucratic obstacles and exorbitant fees. "All the migrants who do not have an official registration and that's a large share of migrants working in China's cities do not have any opportunity to enroll into public schools," Mr. Becquelin said. Human Rights in China is calling on the government to make education available to all children, regardless of their place of residence.