Authorities in Shanghai have detained the father of a 15-year-old girl on public order charges after she took to China's popular microblogs to complain about discrimination against out-of-town families in the city's highly competitive education system.
Zhan Haite, who was born in the southern city of Zhuhai but was raised in Shanghai, complained on her Sina microblog account that she had been refused a place at a senior high school in the city because her "hukou," or household registration document, wasn't issued in the city.
Zhan's father, Zhan Quanxi, is being held under criminal detention, while the family's landlord has asked them to leave after coming under strong pressure from police.
"The hukou system is China's Berlin Wall that draws a sweeping line between "locals" and "outsiders," she wrote on her Sina Weibo account.
"This is a high wall which is very hard to get over," she wrote.
Zhan graduated from middle school in June, but was the only student in her cohort to be refused a place in exams to get into senior high school.
She has now been banned from posting on the microblog services of Sina and Tencent.
Rights lawyer Li Benjin said the charges against Zhan's father have a questionable legal basis.
"What concrete actions has her father taken that obstructed officials in the course of their duty?" he said.
"If they don't constitute obstruction of official duty, then the local authorities are abusing their power, which is a possibility," Li said.
"The judicial authorities should give a legal and actual reason for deleting her posts and preventing her from posting, and for her father's detention," he said.
An employee who answered the phone at the Shanghai Southwestern Senior High School said such a decision was out of the hands of schools.
"You have to go through the educational bureau, because they have policies about this," the employee said. "Our school has no autonomy in this."
"If they don't have a Shanghai registration, they cannot be enrolled under any circumstances ... This is a national-level policy."
Last month, authorities in Beijing banned students born outside the city from signing up to sit the all-important university entrance exam, sparking an outcry among migrant worker communities, many of which have been based in the capital for years.
While the children of migrant workers will be allowed to sit college entrance exams in the eastern provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu, as well as in northeastern Heilongjiang, if their parents work there, Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing have much tighter rules.
Migrant workers who move to towns and cities to seek work in factories are often treated as unwelcome interlopers, and enjoy much less access to public services like education, welfare payments, and health care than those who are registered as already living in the town.
Under the "hukou" registration system, which dates back to the Mao era of collective farming and a planned economy, every household accesses services from its place of registration, posing huge social problems for China's hundreds of millions of migrant workers and their families.
China has nearly 20 million rural children aged under 14 who have followed their migrant-worker parents to cities, official media reported, citing figures from the China Children and Teenagers’ Fund.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.