Another fire in Daxing district, Beijing

Society & Culture

Around 7 pm on Friday, a fire broke out in Xinjian Village 新建村 in Daxing District 大兴区, Beijing, reportedly about 300 meters south of Xingzhi Road 行知路 (just inside South Sixth Ring Road), with large billows of black smoke visible from miles away. There were no reported casualties or injuries.

Daxing, of course, is the district on the outskirts of Beijing where a fire in an apartment building on November 18 left at least 19 dead. That event triggered — or accelerated — a widely publicized “mass eviction” and demolition campaign in which thousands of people, many deemed to be residing in Beijing “illegally,” were displaced from the city. What followed was the coinage of the term “low-end population” (低端人口 dī duān rénkǒu) to describe this often invisible underclass of migrant workers, followed by scattered protests. The eviction campaign received significant criticism both at home and abroad.

That November 18 incident spurred some curious new regulations, such as a rule that scooter batteries could no longer be charged at public establishments (or at least within sight of potential enforcement officers) — a rule that was enforced with surprising rigor, as I repeatedly discovered. That winter, a local security bureau officer also cold-called me with a gentle and polite reminder to be careful while charging scooter batteries at home. It was strange call, during a strange time, in which it seemed like authorities believed fire might threaten political stability.

The June 1 fire was reportedly over an area of 350 square meters and was relatively promptly put out. It might not merit an inch of column space if not for the context above.

Here’s a picture that someone living in the area sent:

And several more from social media:

The incident is reportedly under investigation.

Possibly nothing will come of this — again, this is noteworthy only for the context, though the mass evictions of this past winter are decidedly out of the news cycle. But let’s see.