Mass Evictions of Migrants Spark Public Outcry in Beijing

By Emily Guzman, November 29, 2017

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Thousands of migrants are being evicted from their homes and cast out of Beijing after a deadly fire earlier this month. The mass evictions have sparked public outcry over the treatment of the capital's migrant workers. 

The whole thing started after a fire broke out in an apartment in Daxing on November 18. Nineteen people perished in the blaze – 17 were migrants. An investigation revealed that the cause of the fire was faulty electrical wiring. Authorities detained seven apartment managers, seven electricity workers and four construction workers who worked on the apartment without proper qualifications. The building was later revealed to be in violation of fire codes.

READ MORE: Deadly Apartment Fire in Beijing Caused by Faulty Wiring, Not Arson 

In response to the deadly fire, Cai Qi, secretary of the Communist Party, called for 40 days of citywide safety inspections and the demolition of more illegal structures that fail to meet safety and fire codes, according to Reuters.

In the first week alone, officials are reported to have acted on over 250,000 violations, but these are only the preliminary steps meant to benefit the "lives and safety of the people." 

Ghost Town

Activists say that tens of thousands of people are being effected by the citywide safety inspections, though the actual number remains unknown. The outskirts of Beijing are home to thousands of migrants, many of them working in Beijing with hukous, or residence permits, registered in other cities in China. Many have been given no more than a few days – and in some cases, a few hours – to vacate their homes.

READ MORE: The Human Cost of China's Hukou System

The current crackdown focuses primarily on businesses and homes located in the outlying parts of Beijing, where codes are not enforced as much as they are in the city center. 

Many criticize the operation for forcing the "low-end" populations out of the capital, but the Beijing government called these claims "irresponsible and baseless" in a state media announcement on Sunday. 

The city government added that “[s]ome of the migrant population choose these places to work and live in, but they don’t understand the danger they’re in.”

Although the Beijing government defends its new operation as a humanitarian act, it is no secret that the city has plans to cap its population at 23 million by 2020. In order to reach its goal, the city has been shutting down and relocating all sorts of businesses and factories to other cities, like Hebei. Many migrant workers have had no choice but to pack up their belongings and leave Beijing. 

READ MORE: Beijing Forces Thousands of 'Non-Essential' Businesses to Close

The citywide safety inspections are expected to continue through next month. Only time will tell how many will be impacted. 

[Images via Reuters] 

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