Police in Yulin, Shaanxi Province have begun a city-wide search for citizens who may have illegally registered more than one hukou or household registration, local media reported Saturday.
The city's public security bureau said it will target government employees, entrepreneurs and the self-employed, and investigate people who transferred their hukou to Yulin from other places after 2005, Xi'an Evening News reported Saturday.
During the three-month campaign that will end in March, police officers will visit citizens in person to verify their hukou status, the Yulin Public Security Bureau told the newspaper.
"It is obvious that only people with power and money have the privileges to possess dual hukou, which is why the police are targeting business owners and government officials in the campaign," Zhu Lijia, a public management professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times, adding that people with wealth and power are known to bribe police officers who are in charge of the hukou registration system to obtain a second hukou.
A second hukou can allow citizens to circumvent regulations governing property ownership, public education policies and even access better healthcare services.
A 51-year-old policeman, Zhang Ying, in Shenmu county, which is administered by Yulin, was found dead after taking poison Wednesday,
And some insiders said Zhang may have been involved in shady deals helping people register multiple hukou, the Nandu Daily reported.
The Beijing Times reported that a second hukou could be bought under the table for less than 100,000 yuan ($16,060). Some local people have purchased a second hukou in a neighboring province or city and then have it transferred back to Shenmu.
The Ministry of Public Security ordered local police in Yulin to conduct the hukou investigation on January 17, after a banker from Shenmu, named Gong Aiai, was found to own 20 Beijing properties worth an estimated 1 billion yuan, which were registered under her purchased hukou.
Whistle-blowers told the Beijing Times that the 49-year-old former vice president of Shenmu Branch of Rural Commercial Bank, holds four hukou.
Wang Zhenyu, a researcher with the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times the current hukou system places too many restrictions on people's schooling, employment and free migration.
"When loopholes appear, the authorities invest large sums and huge effort to solve the problem, which means the hukou system is costly and needs to be changed," Wang said, adding that the bigger issue surrounding Gong's massive real estate holding is where she got the money in the first place.
Online humorists are enjoying the controversy, suggesting that there may be so many dual hukou holders that China's population statistics may be far overstated.