11/25/2017, 12.36
CHINA
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Beijing fire leaves thousands of homeless. Campaign against illegal apartments

by John Ai

The fire in an apartment complex caused 19 deaths, of which 8 children. Beijing launches a home-country campaign + against illegal apartments and structures, small industries and offices by evicting those who live there. Thousands of homeless. Cai Qi, a friend of Xi Jinping, has decided to clean the city of "low-income industries" and reduce the population.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Beijing began to purge cheap apartments after a compound in suburb Daxing District set ablaze on the evening of 18th November. Beijing authorities announced a 40-day long blanket search and campaign against illegal apartments and structures. The tenants in many apartments across Beijing were evicted and became homeless. 

The fire last Saturday killed 19 people including eight children. Most of the tenants in the compound called Jufuyuan Apartment were migrant workers. According to the report of state-run CCTV, the victims died from lethal carbon monoxide. The fire broke out from a newly installed underground refrigeration facility in the apartment. Police arrested 18 suspects including the leaseholder, six people in charge of running the apartment and 11 workers working on refrigeration facility construction, debugging and circuit maintenance. Local government said the 11 workers were unqualified for their jobs. However, authorities said that the reason of the fire is still under investigation. 

It is reported that hundreds of people lived in Jufuyuan Apartment and most of them were migrant workers. Small factories cluster in the outskirts of the mega-city and affordable housing cost of cheap apartments are preferred by migrant workers and young graduates. Some of the compounds in Beijing were revamp into multi-function structures hosting business, warehousing and apartments for tenants. 

The aftermath of the fire was that riot police came to seal off the area. Illegal structures were demolished and businesses and migrant workers were faced of imminent eviction. Since 20th November, the measure of purging apartments was carried out across Beijing city. Authorities cut water and power supply of such apartments and forced thousands of tenants to move out without compensation. Many evicted tenants posted online that the rent they had paid were not returned, what is more, price of rent and hotel soars as thousands of people are eager to find a place to stay. The footages of people dragging trolley cases, force eviction and shops destroyed by personnels on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent service, were quickly censored. But AsiaNews succeeded in recovering some:

https://twitter.com/LunaLinCN/status/933542695582044160

https://twitter.com/JiangsongWang/status/933695070535946240

https://twitter.com/cnfreewang/status/933694518393757696

Cai Qi, Communist Party boss of Beijing ordered to check “house by house” and “village by village”. Cai also claimed to control the population and lower the increase rate of population in Beijing. As Xi Jinping’s protege, Cai was promoted as the member of powerful Politburo after the 19th Congress of Communist Party. 

Since 2017, Beijing has accelerated the campaign to dismiss “non-capital functions”. Beijing closed several wholesale markets and garment markets as the part of the campaign which caused protests. Online comments say that the fire and risks are excuse for authorities drive low-revenue and vulnerable groups out of Beijing. But an article on the front page of party mouthpiece Beijing Daily on Friday said that dismissing non-capital functions “never targets any specific groups”. 

In April 2011, fire in a garment workshop in Daxing District caused 17 deaths. Most of the victims of two accidents are in labor-intensified industries. At that time, unlicensed factories were forced to close that lead to unemployment. The similar tragic happened recently happened miles further from the downtown than the previous one, but brings about more impacts on margined groups. 

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