Chinese Census Facing Challenges—Concerns over Data Misuse

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On Monday, six million census workers in China started to collect data on the country’s 1.3-billion people in just ten days. But the process is facing difficulties, with many people reluctant to provide personal information, concerned it will be misused.

Census workers say residents have refused to open their doors or answer telephone calls, according to local media. A reporter from Beijing-based Fazhi Evening News says a census worker he followed was only able to register three out of thirty in a neighborhood.

Analysts believe people are not cooperating because they don’t trust the authorities.

[Lin Yanming, Consultant to the United Nations Population Fund]: (male, Chinese)
“People don’t have confidence in public power. Many are not confident with what the data will be used for, or if it will be used against them later.”

One of the main objectives of this latest census is to collect data on China’s vast migrant worker population. The Asia Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson told Voice of America that many migrant workers who are living in the city illegally want to avoid bureaucracy. She says another group of the population may also want to hide information.

[Sophie Richardson, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch]:
"It's still the case, particularly in urban areas, that population control restrictions are still imposed and that if you are found to have had more than one child, you can be fined. And so there is an incentive for some people to hide additional children they may have had, which is a tricky business.”

Human rights lawyer Tang Jingling says the Chinese regime has misused census information in the past, fuelling further skepticism from the public.

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