A woman in southwestern China’s Sichuan province was vexed to learn recently that she had been dead for over a decade.
The 39-year-old woman, surnamed Wang, found out about her demise — at least on paper — when she visited her hometown of Lijia following a hitch in her plan to get hitched, domestic media outlet Red Star News reported Monday. According to Wang, her household registration booklet, or hukou, had been nullified years ago, and she only recently became aware of the change because of pandemic-related inspections.
Hukou is an important legal document that entitles Chinese people to various social benefits, including health care, public education, and property rights. Couples are also required to present their hukou at their local civil affairs bureau when registering for marriage or divorce.
Wang told Red Star News her hukou was erroneously “canceled due to death” in 2005. Referring to her conversation with Lijia officials, she said the legal document was mistakenly annulled when she attempted to transfer her residency to the southern Guangdong province after her first marriage.
Wang and her first husband got divorced in 2014. Though she wasn’t notified of any red flags at the time, she found out about her canceled hukou last year during the pandemic, after she had started planning her second wedding, according to the media report. She has approached multiple government departments and spent thousands of yuan to correct the error, but to no avail.
“Don’t I have to carry this document for the rest of my life?” she told Red Star News, adding that not having her household registration booklet could create myriad problems for her and her family down the line.
This is not the first time an individual’s hukou has been erroneously canceled. Last year, a man surnamed Guo from the southwestern city of Liuzhou went viral on Chinese social media after his household registration was canceled “due to death.” To prove that he was alive, Guo was asked to gather several documents from his local village office, along with a photo of him holding a newspaper with the current date visible.
It’s unclear whether Guo was successful in restoring his hukou.
Ju Ganghai, a police officer in the eastern city of Taizhou specializing in hukou-related issues, told Sixth Tone that it’s difficult to obtain another household registration because the document is linked to an individual’s legal identity. In cases like Wang’s, it can be surprisingly challenging for a person to prove they aren’t dead.
“The difficulty of handling such issues lies in the verification and confirmation of one’s identity information,” said Ju, who has spent years helping over 3,000 people secure their household registration documents.
Each year in China, millions of state-issued ID cards are reported stolen or lost, with some later found to be used for illicit purposes. Not long after losing her ID card last year, one woman discovered she was not only married but also divorced — minutes before she had planned to tie the knot herself.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People Visual)