In China’s most recent case of bureaucracy gone awry, a woman in eastern Anhui province has finally completed a seven-year crusade to prove her gender in order to update an important household registration document, the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday.
Because she couldn’t correct her household registration — a document also called a hukou that confers myriad advantages from property ownership to welfare to public education to heath care — Kong Lingqun was also unable to obtain a national identity card, a marriage certificate, and even her daughter’s birth certificate.
Kong reportedly found out that the gender on her hukou was wrong when she went to the Modian Township police station in Hefei, the provincial capital, in 2010 to apply for a national identity card. She was told to visit another police station where her official documents were archived in order to have the problem fixed. But, she told Beijing Youth Daily, “They told me my archive couldn’t be found and gave me an official letter saying it had been lost.”
To rectify the situation, Kong, now 24 years old, had to get several official documents from her school and the local village Party committee. However, when she returned to the Modian police station, she was told that she also had to present a “gender check” certificate from a hospital attesting to her femininity.
Kong was incredulous. “I’ve even brought childhood photos with me,” she said. “Why isn’t this sufficient proof?”
For as long as her gender remained unverified, Kong faced difficulties in her daily life. After she was fired from her full-time job at an electronics factory in 2011, she was only able to get low-paying, part-time work. In 2012, she was unable to officially marry her husband. And when faced with the future prospect of enrolling her young daughter in primary school, Kong knew that her options would be limited without a hukou.
In the fall of 2014, Kong took her daughter, then 2 years old, along with her to Hefei’s No. 2 People’s Hospital to get a gender check certificate. “The doctors there were shocked,” she remembers. “They said I had a child already — what more was there to prove?” Kong said the hospital refused to issue a gender check certificate because she was quite obviously female, and that the Anhui Provincial Hospital later refused her for the same reason.
According to Beijing Youth Daily, Kong was adopted, and as such her foster parents knew nothing about her archived personal information. One way around the missing archive, she learned, would be to reregister as a household with her biological parents — but this plan quickly fell through when Kong’s biological father requested 10,000 yuan ($1,500) in exchange for his cooperation.
Not until August 2017, when a local TV station did a story about her plight, was Kong’s marathon of a journey finally resolved. The county-level Xinzhan police bureau — which administers the Modian police station — stated that the police officers who had handled Kong’s case had a poor understanding of hukou policy and had neglected to take proper initiative in finding a solution to Kong’s problem. The Xinzhan police amended Kong’s official gender on Aug. 7. Kong refused Sixth Tone’s request for an interview because her application for an identity card is currently being processed.
A manager at the Xinzhan police station surnamed Zhang told Beijing Youth Daily that in theory, a person should have to show proof of their gender in order to change what appears on their official record. However, he conceded that the management of household registration is not so strict in rural areas, and as such the police handling Kong’s case had been too inflexible, and unnecessarily afraid of committing misconduct.
In a similar case from August 2013, a police chief in southwestern Sichuan province was demoted for being unwilling to change the year on a young girl’s birth certificate from 1988 to 1998.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A young girl holds her household registration document while standing in front of a police station in Henan province, June 20, 2017. Rao Hai/IC)