Migrant parents gather outside the office for letters and calls at the Ministry of Education Thursday morning. The parents are listening to a parent representative asking police why two of their number had been detained. Police would not give a reason. Photo: Guo Yingguang/GT
Around 100 migrant parents staged a demonstration outside the Ministry of Education Thursday morning to protest for their children's equal rights to a public education.
This is the third major protest over equal rights in education this year. The protesters were demanding an answer to a request filed in May this year, asking whether their children would be able to sit the gaokao (college entrance examinations) in the city.
Children without a Beijing hukou (household registration) are currently forced under government regulations to return to their hometowns for the exam, which could be thousands of kilometers away, despite many of the children already attending Beijing schools.
The group was physically prevented from entering the government buildings by police officers on the scene Thursday morning.
Dozens of police and military vehicles arrived throughout the morning, and after three hours had managed to persuade the protesters to disperse, witnesses told the Global Times.
"I don't know what happened to the protesters; maybe some of them were taken away or even worse," said one witness, who declined to be identified.
"They were all migrants and were just standing at the gates of the building, maybe 80-100 of them, but they were completely forbidden from entering the premises," the witness said.
Yi Sheng, father of a high school student in Beijing said earlier this year, the ministry had promised to issue a policy before the end of June which would solve the problems faced by students without a Beijing hukou. But the parents are still waiting for a response.
"We came here today just to find out how long we will have to wait," Yi said.
According to Yi, the protest started at around 9.30 am. At midday the police detained more than 10 protesters.
A Global Times reporter found the parents standing in a group, holding up cameras and phones, recording a parent representative demanding an explanation from police as to why the two parents were detained.
Police ignored the questions, and asked the protestors to leave.
"The police have a list of most of our names. They have freed anyone not on that list, but two who were on it are still being detained at Erlonglu police station in Xicheng district," Yi said on Thursday afternoon.
Fifty parents, some of whom were also at Thursday's protest, gathered at Tongzhou district education bureau on May 24, asking for equal education access to the district's schools.
The parents were advised to seek education with one of Beijing's expensive private schools, however, both the money and heavy paperwork required make this solution a near impossibility.
In theory, Chinese law allows migrant students the same rights to an education as Beijing natives, according to an enrolment policy amended in 2010. However, the policy does not cover residents of the outlying areas of Tongzhou and Changping districts.
Tongzhou education bureau told the Global Times in May that the number of non-Beijing students had exceeded those with a Beijing hukou, and the district needed to protect the rights of Beijing residents. The bureau also said it would enroll non-hukou holders in its public schools, so long as they have the appropriate documentation.
But even if migrant children find a school place, they still must return to their hometown to sit the gaokao.
"Only when students from other provinces have the same chance as Beijing students to enter a university, will such protests end," Wang Hongcai, an education expert at Xiamen University, Fujian Province, said Thursday.
"It is necessary for students to have equal rights regardless of their hukou, but I understand why this is a problem. More students from other provinces will come, using up valuable educational resources and enhancing already fierce competition," he remarked.
In February this year, 300 parents staged a public sit-in in the courtyard of the ministry to protest hukou restrictions over the gaokao. At the time, around 87,000 parents had signed an appeal for the removal of restrictions. However, the 300 were also given no news as to when migrant children will be allowed to sit exams in Beijing.