Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Olympic projects send poor packing

Another 25 villages will be razed to the ground to transform Beijing into the perfect Olympic city at the expense of millions of migrants who have worked their fingers to the bone to help transform it. And they dare say that human rights are improving?

BEIJING, China (Reuters) May 16, 2007 - Guandong Dian, soon to be cleared to make way for an office block and a wider road, is one of dozens of crumbling shantytowns pockmarking Beijing that have been earmarked for demolition prior to 2008 when the city hosts the Olympic Games.

Having survived the city's relentless modernization drive, local authorities are determined the shanty-towns -- home to many of the millions of migrant workers flooding into Beijing to find employment -- won't survive to tarnish the showcase capital's image during the Olympics.

Branding them "illegal urban villages," town planners demolished 55 of them in 2006 and started clearing another 25 as part of the city's "beautification" work.

Authorities are spending $40 billion to upgrade Beijing's creaky public transport system, build event venues and shift heavy industrial polluters far from city limits in line with a pledge to the International Olympic Committee to unclog congested roads and reduce air pollution for the games.

In a city of glittering skyscrapers, the shantytowns are inconvenient reminders of grinding poverty in China's heartland.

"There are at least 1,000 of us here," said Wang, who once farmed a small plot in his home province of Henan, but now ekes out a living selling slices of "thousand layer cake" from a hand-wheeled cart in Xiangjun Nanli.

"Most of us are from outside of Beijing, from all over the country," said Wang, one of about four million migrant workers who live in Beijing but are not counted in its official population of 15 million. (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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