02/27/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Pre-Olympics mass ID controls for migrant workers in Beijing

Police is set to register the capital’s 4.2 million migrant workers. Despite official denials many fear it is a prelude to mass expulsion for those caught without residency permits. In Guangdong authorities are instead trying to attract workers.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Beijing about 3,000 police officers are set to check migrant workers’ identities and addresses ahead of the Olympic Games to ensure a "safe and harmonious security environment,” this according to the municipal Public Security Bureau. Some observers fear however that mass ID checking might anticipate other measures.

The capital has about 4.2 million migrant workers out of a population of about 16 million, according to official estimates, many of whom have been working on Olympic infrastructure projects.

Their work is essential for quick building of Olympic infrastructures but so far neither the capital nor other cities have felt the need to register the country’s more than 150 million migrant workers, dubbed the “floating population,” who have moved from outlying towns and villages to booming cities in search of jobs but where they have no right to health care or free schooling for their children.

Now that registration is required according to the local Public Security Bureau, those found without temporary residence permits would be asked to get them, and those who refused would be “given a warning or fined 50 yuan or less.” It is not clear though under what conditions permits will be granted and whether those caught without it can stay in the city.

For this reason and despite denials by city authorities, experts fear that Beijing might expel migrant workers during the Olympics so as to ensure assure sufficient water supplies and ease infrastructure strains. In fact in the past few months the city has shut down hundreds of schools for the children of migrants.

Meanwhile in the industrial city of Guangdong provincial authorities are planning to invest 1.5 billion yuan a year to train workers in order to overcome labour shortages.

About 1.35 million rural workers were trained in 2005 but that is not enough to satisfy labour demands and this despite pay rises. At the same time because of those rising wages many manufacturers are closing factories and moving to places like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

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