Beijing evictions reach into the tens of thousands, destroying livelihoods of migrants


Despite an unusual backlash from some state media and even cautionary words from Beijing party chief Cai Qi 蔡奇 in response to the hurried en masse evictions, it is being widely reported that tens of thousands have now seen their livelihoods and futures in the Chinese capital destroyed in the past two weeks. The workers, who lived on the outskirts of Beijing and did not hold Beijing hukou (户口; household registration), are being forced to return to their hometowns in other provinces.

  • The New York Times describes (paywall) the areas affected as “reminiscent of war zones, with entire city blocks demolished,” and captures a chorus of voices wondering why their government has made them “abruptly homeless in midwinter.”
  • An unnamed city official, when asked whether the campaign was really intended to drive out the “low-end population” (低端人口 dīduān rénkǒu), responded (in Chinese) that it was “irresponsible” to use the phrase, and insisted, “there is no saying like ‘low-end population’” (没有“低端人口”一说).
  • The official’s statement has now become a reality on the Chinese internet, as that phrase, Reuters correspondent Philip Wen reports on Twitter, has been blocked on both WeChat and Weibo. “China’s underclass have become the unmentionables,” he concludes.

Voices large and small continue to speak out against the evictions

  • Outspoken property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, whose Weibo account was deleted last year after he suggested that media should be independent from the Communist Party, has chimed in, SCMP reports.
  • Ren criticized the hukou system as the root of the problems Beijing was actually trying to solve, noting that such a system was “adopted only by a limited number of countries, including China and North Korea,” and arguing that “if China doesn’t solve the land problem and change the household registration system, all of its so-called long-term [market] mechanisms will be built on sand.”
  • A poster at Tsinghua University urges readers to oppose Beijing’s crackdown on “low-end population,” Afra Wang notes on Twitter.

For more discussion of what exactly is going on in Beijing, see this conversation of China scholars and observers on ChinaFile.