The rise of the Chinese criminal youth

11 Feb

From 1995 onwards there was a large scale migration of peasants in the West of China to the cities to participate in the boom of industry there. In 1949 10% of the Chinese population lived in cities, by 2011 50% of Chinas 1.37 Billion people lived in cities.

This drew mainly men of working age to the cities tired of low wages and corrupt local officials who could sell off the land they tilled to developers moving West from Beijing and Shanghai.

This left a gap back home as children often lacked a father figure and father figures within the community. The remittances were welcome but this was offset by the absence of a whole cohort of males from many western Chinese villages. As such many younger men and children were and are involved in crime in rural China. Local decisions are often made in opaque courts and party meetings by well connected, retired officials influencing their successors and as such there is little investment in rural people either judicially or the communities they live in.

Those families that go altogether to the cities do not escape the hardships and call of crime. Young boys and girls struggle to adapt to life in a metropolis and have to put up with the second class status they are loaded with as internal economic migrants. Many migrants are also non Han in ethnicity and as such have extra baggage that ultimately leaves them isolated and vulnerable to entering the criminal justice system.

There is however hope, economists point to household registration as a possible solution for these migrants.

Housing registration (Hukou) is the recognition of a migrant’s access to legitimate housing, schooling for offspring, welfare and other social benefits. Without a decent education such as the type children born to city dwellers get, the issues look set to go on and on. No registered housing also prevents judges giving probation to juvenile criminals. A systematic problem for Chinese justice.  Unregistered housing is in tenement blocks that can be pulled down and develop into Soweto style slums.

Improvements such as the increased transparency of local party meetings and decision making would foster justice and fairness and see young criminals get the support they need. Also, some investment in areas receiving money from development or central payments for the food/oil they produce for the East would arrest the rate at which the rural young enter the criminal justice system. Although a small consolation for no role models, it is a start.

In the city it is even simpler, Hukou for all migrants so safe housing, health care and good education means the conveyor of young Chinese being enticed into crime to get ahead in life will slow and stop.

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