Public Statement from the Civil Society to call for a Halt to Evictions of the Urban Poor in Beijing

On November 18, 2017, a fire broke out in Daxing District of Beijing, a suburb densely populated by low-income migrant workers.  The fire killed at least 19 people and injured 8. After the fire, in the name of “improving the cityscape”, the Beijing Municipal Government embarked on an illegal eviction of migrant workers by force, while cutting off their electricity and water supplies. Tens of thousands of grassroots residents were forced out of their homes when temperature hovered around freezing point.

We (a group of civil society organisations) are outraged at how the authorities treated its people as “low-end population”. These internal migrant workers are in fact the cornerstone of China’s astounding economic growth. Since the economic reform, hundreds of millions of migrant workers are drawn to the cities from their rural hometowns and become the engine that powers the thriving industries. However, these workers are often denied reasonable wages, regardless of their hard-work. As a result, most migrant workers are unable to afford dignified living conditions in the cities. Worse still, municipal authorities also deem migrant workers as disposable “others”, and exclude them from the urban social security system through the Household Registration (Hukou) System.  Thus, migrant workers’ needs and rights are often neglected in urban planning, education, medical services and other policies.

The Household Registration (Hukou) System has been adopted by the Chinese Government not only as a means to control the population, it also deprives the “migrant population” of citizenship rights in places other than their municipality of origin. The System has become such a deeply rooted belief and it continues to exploit the labour of the “migrant population” at the expenses of their social protections and well-beings. In past decades, the institutional discrimination against migrants has been further reinforced by the Chinese Government, as they are regarded as second-class citizens and the first to be sacrificed when crises emerge. During the financial crises in 2008 and 2012, for instance, the government drove out unemployed migrant workers and forced them to move back to their hometowns.

The fundamental cause of the Daxing fire is that the government failed to resolve the safety risks occurring in the urban sprawl in time. However, the Beijing Municipal authorities unreasonably shirked responsibilities to the “migrant population”, as if all the urban problems are simply caused by the migrant population’s “refusal to leave”, disregarding the fact that the development of the city has been built on the exploitation of these low-income migrants. Instead of resolving the fundamental issues, the fact that the authorities have used the Daxing fire as an excuse to evict the migrants to “make the city a better place” is undoubtedly like climbing a tree to catch a fish. To make matters worse, the unhealthy wind of the “eviction of the low-end population” has also been taken up by other provinces and cities. As reported, migrants in certain districts of Shenzhen and Guangzhou have also received eviction notices. The local authorities will need to immediately stop these discriminating and violent actions, before further humanitarian disasters emerge!

We believe that protecting the people is the responsibility of any government, and we demand the Beijing Municipal Government to:

1) Stop forced eviction immediately and actively facilitate the resettlement of the evictees;

2) Recognize the grassroots population as important stakeholders in the city and ensure their freedom of movement, right to housing, work, education and medical service are respected in government policies;

3) Hold the administrative organs and the staff accountable for the illegal actions and violation of people’s rights in the forced evictions;

4) Compensate all the financial losses of the residents affected by the forced evictions.

Note: Administrative Compulsion Law of the People’s Republic of China,  Article 43 Administrative organs shall not conduct administrative enforcement at night or on a statutory public holiday, except for in an emergency. Administrative organs shall not force the parties concerned to perform the relevant administrative decisions by such means as cutting off the supply of water, electricity, heating or gas for the living of residents.

 

Signatories (as of 1/12/2017):

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese

League of Social Democrats

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China

SACOM

Globalization Monitor

Worker Empowerment

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Labour Education and Service Network

Labour Action China

Student Fight For Democracy

Civil Human Rights Front 

Labour Party

Borderless movement

Land Justice League

Demosistō

Community March

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group

Hong Kong Chef Union

Left 21

Concerning Grassroots' Housing Rights Alliance

CSSA Alliance

Community Development Alliance

Voters’ Voice

China Labour Bulletin

Councilor Chu Hoi-dick’s Office

Ekklesia Hong Kong

Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre

Industrial Relations Institue

Polyu Pavilion

Social Movement Resource Centre(Autonomous 8A)

LU Workers Concern Group

BU movement

Midnight blue

Progressive Lawyers Group

HK Psychologists Concern

Hong Kong Association of Women Social Workers

Reclaiming Social Work Movement

HKEd4All

Financier Conscience

Society of HKBU Social Work 

Hong Kong Federation of Social Work Students

HKCTSSW

Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union

Civil Renaissance

Artists Action

Progressive Teachers' Alliance

Grassroots Development Centre

Labour Rights Commune

Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood

Democratic Party

門徒事工

v-artivist

ODAAG

Insurance ARISE

LIPS Labour Resource Centre (Indonesia)

 Forum Worlds of Labour (Forum Arbeitswelten e.V. ) (Germany)

National Union Confederation (Indonesia)

Worker's Initiative Kolkata (India)

Korean House for International Solidarity (Korea)

Socialist Party of Malaysia (Malaysia)

Just Economy and Labor Institute (Thailand)

SÜDWIND Institute (Germany)

IG Metall (Berlin)

LabourNet Germany (Germany)

Unifor Retiree Council Lower Mainland (Canada)

放射良心 

ArchiVision

Committee for Asian Women (Malaysia)