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Migrants moved on as Beijing deals with building 'disease'

From Reuters - August 11, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) - In a Beijing suburb, a crane hoists a concrete slab into the sky, removing a roof from a simple brick home that had once sheltered a small migrant family.

Dongsanqi village is the latest community to be demolished under a municipal campaign to dismantle what the city authority says are unsafe dwellings following years of "disorderly" development.

Zhu Xiangzhi, who lived in Dongsanqi with his grandson, has found temporary shelter in a converted welding shop while he looks for a new home and school.

"Everyone is looking for their own place, but I still have not found (a place) anywhere," said the rubbish collector from eastern Anhui province who moved to Beijing 20 years ago.

China's past three decades of rapid economic development spurred a mass migration of some 280 million workers from rural areas to big cities, many of them taking low-wage jobs in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors.

Unable to secure official residency, which brings with it access to social welfare services and education, migrants found homes in ageing inner city buildings, overcrowded dormitories, basements and even sewers.

Beijing's municipal government launched a campaign this year to eradicate what it called an "urban disease" of illegal construction and unsafe buildings in the city of nearly 22 million people.

Hutongs, traditional homes built around courtyards in neighborhoods of narrow alleyways, were among the first to be "rectified". The campaign has since spread to more suburbs. [nL4N1I51PR]

Some 100 Beijing neighborhoods are to be revamped by 2020, the city government has said. This year it aims to remove 40 million sq m (48 million sq yards) of illegal structures, the equivalent of 5,000 soccer pitches.

The number of migrant workers in Beijing has risen fivefold over the past 18 years, peaking at 8.2 million in 2015. The pace of migration has slowed under a plan to cap Beijing's population at 23 million by 2020.

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