In the wake of a deadly fire at a shanty town on the outskirts of Beijing on November 18th, thousands of migrants are being evicted from China’s capital city with their homes set for demolition among city-wide “safety checks.”
Yesterday, NetEase published a photoseries showing migrant families being suddenly uprooted from their homes and thrown out into the cold city streets carrying with them all of their belongings. Not surprisingly, that series of photos has since been taken down, but you can still find the images in cached form and below:
Beijing officials have denied that this campaign targets the city’s so-called “low-end population,” instead maintaining that its goal is tackling the threats posed by unsafe and unlicensed buildings.
It appears that most migrant workers who are being kicked out of their homes as winter approaches don’t completely buy that explanation, seeing this as just the city’s latest move to cap its population and push migrants even farther out, beyond the Sixth Ring Road.
“I think the government wanted an excuse to begin these urban clean-ups,” one Henan-native living in Beijing’s southern Daxing district told the Financial Times. “They have never wanted people like us, and now they have a new reason to kick us out.”
On my way to do a bit volunteering (in case anyone needs help with moving) and the driver showed us this clip. The driver said ppl were told to move out in 2h or they won’t be able to access their personal effects in the flats. pic.twitter.com/yHTGS1pcMT
— Luna Lin (@LunaLinCN) November 25, 2017
Many middle-class Chinese netizens and intellectuals also aren’t buying the government’s excuse, and censors have been forced to work overtime recently, deleting social media posts and comments from those sympathizing with the plight of those who have been so suddenly evicted — some were reportedly given just 15 minutes to grab their stuff and go.
Even party tabloid the Global Times has had a tough time with this one, publishing an editorial which appears to argue that the evictions are bad, but that they do not target Beijing’s “low-end population.”
It’s not reasonable for Beijing to close its doors to out-of-towners. Before 1949, the city was just within what is now the second ring road; before the reform and opening up, the Beijing population was no more than 8 million. Beijing was constructed by the waves of migrants and their offspring, and its future development is also impossible without the inflow of talent. It is illogic to say Beijing is evicting the so-called “low-end population,” simply because there no big city in the world comprised of only “high-end citizens.” The massive safety check-up is only aimed at eliminating fire and other hazards and to secure safety for the city.
Regrettably, good intentions have been distorted. The working methods of some villages were indeed too simplistic and brutal, which justifies the anger on the Internet against them.
Since the evictions began last week, many Beijingers have stepped forward to help those most vulnerable with local restaurants, NGOs, and religious groups providing help however they can.
Heart-warming to see Beijing volunteers, restaurant owners&others helping migrant workers displaced in govt's latest demolish&evict campaign by providing transport, food, lodging & jobs. May be a small slice of Chinese middle class but gives hope of social change
— Wang Feng (@ulywang) November 24, 2017
House church in Beijing offers help to "low-end population" (govt's term for migrant workers) driven into wintry cold by city govt. https://t.co/THx4ERFAdt
— Yaxue Cao (@YaxueCao) November 25, 2017
Chinese netizens collaborated and collected job info & places to stay for migrant workers looking for assistance in Beijing. Please spread the word to your local communities and help the Beijingers who are facing the risk of being evicted: https://t.co/L4LgChmwBY pic.twitter.com/kL5UIMbKXZ
— Tianyu M. Fang (@tianyuf) November 26, 2017
However, some volunteers are reportedly getting into trouble themselves. For South China Morning Post, Nectar Gan writes about one migrant worker who was evicted himself after trying to assist those who had been left homeless.
Meanwhile, opportunistic others have been handing out flyers encouraging migrants to move to the nearby Xiong’an area where China is trying to build its next Shenzhen/Pudong.
That warehouse you had just a day ago now a pile of rubble? Plainclothes thugs tear your factory to the ground? No worries! Shills w flyers are here to invite you to a brighter future in Xiongan new district! #JingJinJiDreaming #NewEra #Eviction pic.twitter.com/CWMMancjUJ
— Rebecca Davis (@rebeccaludavis) November 27, 2017
As security officers make it clear that they are no longer welcome in Beijing.
北京欢迎你 welcome to Beijing pic.twitter.com/usGFc6zDfG
— Yuan Zeng (@ImYuanZeng) November 26, 2017
And that there’s nothing to go back to.
Repost, weird technical glitch. Insane rubble as far as the eye can see at site of #Beijing garment district #fire, after authorities demolished the entire block of factories and buildings they say were not up to code pic.twitter.com/Os2wadBnUX
— Rebecca Davis (@rebeccaludavis) November 27, 2017
Quite a start for the “New Era of Xi Jinping.”
A migrant family is leaving Beijing under a government-mandated evacuation. They had 15mins to clear all their belongings. Behind them is a big banner saying the great “Xi Jinping new era”. pic.twitter.com/awuTCQG8Jb
— Keith Zhai (@QiZHAI) November 26, 2017