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Life of migrant workers changed due to redevelopment of suburban villages

07-21-2010 15:02 BJT

Some 60,000 migrant workers in Shijingshan district are about to lose their homes because the villages will be redeveloped. They are forced to choose: find another place to live, or return to their hometown.

This is only “the tip of the iceberg” of Beijing’s urban-rural integration process.

In the context of urbanization and industrialization, the government mainly relocates registered residents after demolishing villages. Local authorities in Beijing’s districts and counties have not yet introduced any policies to deal with the increase in the floating population caused by the demolitions. Nationwide, no good precedents on the issue have been established.

The rubble that was piled everywhere in Yongwangfu village looked red and shabby on July 13 after the rains the previous night.

Cheng Qianxin, who has a round, brown face with a unibrow, is from Henan province and now 46 years old. He is a junk dealer, and when the reporter went to interview him, he was weighing and moving used furniture, such as old-fashioned wardrobes, desks, and beds, onto his three-wheeled cart. As villagers move away one after another, he now purchases about 2 tons of used goods a day, compared to over a hundred kilograms in the past, but he is still not happy.

“Sooner or later there will be no secondhand goods left, and then I will have to leave,” Cheng said. Having lived in Beijing for 17 years, he has almost lost his Henan accent.

According to statistics from the floating population management department in Shijingshan district, the three key villages in the district that are being demolished have a floating population of around 60,000.

For local villagers, the demolition of old houses and the new urbanization measures means a new way of life. They will leave the tile-roofed houses and live in multi-storied buildings.

However, those migrant workers are faced with a choice between moving somewhere else or going back home. Most of them have not decided yet.

Lu Jiehua, member of the CPPCC Beijing Municipal Committee and a professor at the Department of Sociology at Peking University, said that Beijing has not found any effective ways of solving the habitation problem for the floating population caused by the demolitions and increased urbanization, nor has any other part of China.

Twenty years of a migrant community

There were nearly 100 households in Yongwangfu Village in the past. However, this village has expanded three-fold as more than 1,000 migrant workers have moved in, many living in illegal buildings.

July 14 is the deadline for people to leave their houses according to a demolition and relocation reward system specially designed for this village. Nearly 10 houses have been torn down and garbage baskets made from bamboo have been left unattended.

A promotion campaign in the ruins

An ad reading “houses for rent” has been soaked by rainwater. It was written in chalk. Some new ads for house rentals in a neighboring village, called Beixinan Village, also appeared on the walls. Meanwhile, staff members from some of the local real estate agencies stand on muddy roads, promoting houses to local villagers. It is said that a 60-square meter apartment costs nearly 1 million yuan.

The demolition of Yongwangfu village began in April 2010. The Bianfu Community, in which Yongwangfu village is located, and some neighboring areas such as the Laoguchengqian Street and the Yamenkounan Community, have been listed as key villages for urbanization.

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