By Yang Tao
BEIJING - A 24-year-old woman from Menglian County, a remote rural area of southwest China, reported recently that had her passport application rejected. The reason authorities gave: since 2005, too many women from the area have gone abroad to become prostitutes; and when they come back home they spread sexually-transmitted diseases such as AIDS.
Besides, officials note, too many local young men havent been able to find wives because of this emigration.
In light of this situation, says the local government, it has simply decided to refuse passport applications from women aged 16 to 35, unless they happen to need to travel for a government mission.
Its true that too many women from this impoverished area go abroad to make money as prostitutes, but in a lawful society no government department has the right to deny the legal rights of ordinary people. If there is no law forbidding holding a passport then its not up to public security officials to make their own laws to deal with prostitution.
This latest restriction harms the legal rights of citizens, because there are of course many who go abroad for study, business, or tourism. If we follow this logic then a man with a passport might be engaged abroad in illicit activities, perhaps visiting prostitutes and bringing home unpleasant diseases of his own. Should their applications be rejected?
And at the same time, the new law won't actually manage to stop those involved in criminal activities, who will always find a way to circumvent such restrictions. Even the chief of immigration of Mengliang County, Yang Zhonghua, agrees on this point.
In fact the reason why these women are prevented from going abroad is to save the face of the local authorities criticized for the high level of venereal disease registered on their municipal performance indicators.
Today its womens passports, maybe tomorrow their clothes will be regulated: a sharp reminder that unrestricted power is always bound to destroy the rights of citizens.
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