Thursday, December 07, 2006

Eviction as an olympic event

From Agence France Presse, datelined 6 December:

Beijing will demolish the final 22 squatter "villages" remaining in the city by June as part of efforts to beautify China's capital ahead of the 2008 Olympics, state press said Wednesday.

More than three million square meters (32 million square feet) of "illegal" structures will be destroyed during the campaign, which will focus on areas around the Olympic Village and other Games venues, the Beijing Daily reported.

Following the campaign the city will have "rectified" 171 such "villages" in its efforts to prepare for the Games, the paper said, citing a meeting held Tuesday.

The villages are made up of buildings housing some of the city's huge migrant worker population, a phenomenon that has appeared in cities all across China as the nation undergoes an unprecedented urbanization process.

There were no details about how many people live in the final 22 villages to be destroyed, or the total number who will have been forced to find new homes from all 171 villages.

The report also made no mention of where these people would be moved to.

Officially there are 3.6 million migrant workers living legally in Beijing out of a total population of 15.4 million people.

However, there are no figures on the many other people from rural China who have come to the Chinese capital for work and not registered.

Earlier this year, the city government insisted the legal rights of migrant workers would be protected ahead of the 2008 Olympics, following reports that up to a million people could be evicted to spruce up the city's image.

The defense came amid accusations by overseas human rights groups such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch that Beijing authorities had already embarked on a campaign to close schools serving the children of migrants.

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