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February 1997, Volume 4, Number 2

China and Hong Kong

China is gearing up for heavy travel over the Lunar New Year, which begins on February 7, 1997. The holiday period runs from January 18 to March 8, and Chinese trains are expected to carry 133 million passengers over the holidays that mark the beginning of the Year of the Ox.

Reports of 100 million or more internal migrant workers in China often include both migrant workers and businessmen and tourists who are temporarily away from the place where they are registered to live.

In January 1997, a computerized employment service was established to link the provinces of Hubei, Jiangxi, Guizhou, Henan and Anhui with Guangdong, Hunan, and Sichuan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and thus rationalize the migration of workers.

Chinese toy companies were accused in January of violating labor laws that require at least a wage of $0.27 per hour for a 44-hour work week. Migrant construction workers in China reportedly earn $170 per month.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in China recently reduced estimates of the number of farm workers in China from 900 million to 250 million. The academy put China's rural work force, excluding the elderly and children, at 460 million.

The rural work force includes about 250 million agricultural workers and another 100 million workers involved in small-scale nonagricultural production. This leaves a "rural surplus labor force" of about 100 million, and at least half are internal migrants, mostly within the same province.

The number of people living on less than the Chinese poverty level, 60 cents a day, has declined from 270 million in 1978 to 65 million 1995. Some 170 million Chinese moved out of poverty between 1978 and 1985, and another 37 million moved out of poverty between 1987 and 1995.

Hong Kong. Some 23,180 Chinese immigrants were apprehended in Hong Kong in 1996, down 14 percent from 1995, and the fewest since 1989.

The number of British nationals living in Hong Kong has more than doubled since 1987 to 35,000. Per capita income in Hong Kong exceeds that in Britain and in some cases wages are higher.

A British Nationality Bill would grant British status to up to 5,000 Indian and Asian residents of Hong Kong who may become stateless after July 1, 1997, as they are not eligible for Chinese citizenship. The British Home Secretary is blocking the granting of British nationality to the 5,000.

In Hong Kong, Honduras' honorary consul is being sought for allegedly selling up to $15 billion worth of passports to Asians hoping to migrate via Honduras to the US. For 18 months in 1990-91, Honduras permitted foreigners to buy Honduran citizenship for $25,000 each and 2,000 Hong Kong Chinese did. In addition, up to 20,000 criminals may have bought Honduras passports, at up to $100,000 each.

"Chinese brokers reportedly enjoy boom smuggling immigrants," BBC, January 31, 1997. "Illegal immigrant numbers in Hong Kong down ahead of handover," Agence France Presse, January 13, 1997.