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Mass evictions of migrant workers in Beijing

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By NBC News
Mass evictions of migrant workers in Beijing

Hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Beijing on Sunday (Dec. 11) to protest against a recent eviction order forcing thousands of migrant workers from their homes.

After 10 years of living in the Chinese capital, Li Yuanrong was given just one day to pack up her belongings. "We have no choice but to obey," she told NBC News reporter Janis Mackey Frayer.

The swift evictions are part of a massive housing crackdown following a deadly fire at a migrant settlement last month. Under the plan, entire city blocks will be condemned, and more than 50 square kilometres of buildings leveled.

The Chinese government says the move is justified on safety grounds, but many suspect the move is tied to population control - an effort to force the poor from the land that these migrant workers helped develop, and whose value has soared.

The city depends on an estimated 8 million workers to do the low-paying jobs that keep it running.

The mass evictions struck a nerve on social media, with many questioning how the Communist Party could encourage the poor to pursue the "China Dream", only to force them out in freezing weather. But internet censors were quick to ban discussions and charities were warned to back off.

Meanwhile, migrants feel as abandoned as the buildings around them.

"Our China dreams are demolished," said one man.

All of the demolition work will be done by migrants.