12/14/2017, 13.34
CHINA

Beijing’s party boss worried about migrants, but does not stop their expulsion

Cai Qi, a friend of Xi Jinping, visited the Chaoyang district as the campaign against “low-end” residents continues and their neighbourhoods are demolished. Another fire at a farmhouse kills five and injures eight. Some now fear that the “cleansing” campaign will start in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing party chief Cai Qi visited Chaoyang district and talked to some migrant workers (picture 2), perhaps to stop the avalanche of criticism against him.

For the past few weeks, tens of thousands of migrants have been expelled and their ramshackle homes, shops and small factories have been demolished.

Suddenly, thousands of single people and families have found themselves out of work and without a home in the harsh winter of northern China (picture 1).

The reason given by the authorities for this action is to safeguard the image of the capital city and reduce its overpopulation starting with the "low-end population" (diduan renkou).

Two days ago, Cai, a close friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, visited SF Express, a dispatch centre, whose employees are mostly out-of-towners who came to the city seeking employment.

He asked questions about what they make and urged employers to hold themselves more accountable for workers’ wellbeing.

Cai also met some migrants from Sichuan, saying that they deserve “due respect and gratitude” for their work.

Cheap migrant labour has so far been one of the pillars of China’s enormous growth. But the "cleansing" of the “low-end” of the population seems to suggest that China can do without them.

On social media, Xi Jinping's "Chinese dream" is mocked since it is only for the rich and not for the poor.

The expulsions and demolitions have been particularly violent and without warning. Several NGOs were not even allowed to provide the expellees with some temporary shelter, or a place to store their belongings.

Last Sunday, hundreds of expellees gathered in Feijia, a village located some 20 kilometres north of downtown Beijing, to protest a policy designed to drive out street vendors, scrap collectors and factory workers who have come from the countryside in search of work.

If this continues, most expelled migrants will have no choice but to return to the poverty of the countryside.

Nearly seven million people, or one-third of Beijing’s population, are migrants with little or no access to many public services including schools, hospitals and state-funded affordable housing programmes due to restrictions set by China’s rigid household registration system (hukou)

Soaring property prices also mean that low-income workers are left with little choice but to live in rundown buildings on the outskirts of the city.

A month ago, a fire in one of these buildings in Daxing district killed 19 people, sparking the city’s “cleansing” campaign. Yesterday, another blaze at a farmhouse in the city’s Chaoyang district killed five and injured eight.

Several experts say that some reports indicate that the authorities may be planning to cleanse other Chinese cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen of their “low-end” residents.

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