Families of long-term migrants living in Chinese urban
areas, but who still have rural hukou (household registration) status, often
receive significantly less compensation than families of corresponding urban hukou holders
killed in similar (or the same) accident. The legal basis for this discriminatory treatment lies in a 2003 judicial
interpretation by the Supreme People's Court, but it reflects a deeper set of
institutional biases that link a range of legal rights and public benefits to
individuals' hukou identification rather than their actual place of
residence. [For more information, see
paper of the Congressional-Executive Commission on
In October 2006, Tao Hongquan, a migrant from Jiangxi province, was killed in a traffic collision when the three-wheeled motorcycle he was driving collided with a truck. The lower court found that both Tao and the truck driver collectively bore responsibility for the collision, but refused Tao’s family demand that the court apply urban compensation standards for the purpose of calculating the death compensation award. The lower court based its' decision on Tao's status as a migrant lacking a Beijing hukou and his "lack of a fixed place of employment, residence, and source of income." Applying compensation standards for rural residents, the court derived a death award of 70,000 yuan ($9,300 US).
On appeal, Tao's lawyers argued that the fact that Tao had moved
The Number 2 Intermediate People's Court (IPC) of
The Beijing court decision appears to depart from a strict bright-line test based on hukou identification for the purpose of determining whether urban or rural compensation standards should apply. The logic of the case would appear to expand the urban compensation standards to (at least) all migrants who possess a temporary residence permit.
The Supreme People's Court is currently considering issuing a judicial interpretation that would address discrepancies between rural and urban hukou holders in death compensation awards. No such decision has yet issued.