Capital city no longer wants outsiders


Please go home...

Beijing’s migrant workers aren’t feeling very welcome in the city at the moment. Not only are they denied the same rights as local residents (including retirement pension and medical care), they have also been finding it tougher recently to find accommodation in town.

In December, city officials revealed plans to close down illegal shanty dwellings, reports Caijing, and cheap basement accommodation is set to be next to go. The new rules, critics say, are to block rural migrants from moving to the country’s capital, where policymakers are concerned about how overpopulated and congested Beijing has become.

Indeed, even those who can afford better living conditions are not so welcome any more.

City officials announced last week that Beijing is also introducing new restrictions to counter the property bubble. People with Beijing hukou (permanent residency) will be limited to buying two apartments within city limits.

Others will be restricted to a single property unless they can provide tax or social insurance certificates to prove that they have lived in Beijing for five successive years.

Those lacking supporting documents won’t be allowed to buy homes in Beijing at all. The new rule is effective immediately, says the Shanghai Daily.

That has led to accusations of discrimination against non-Beijing residents, and charges by bloggers that city officials are using the property bubble as an excuse to get rid of outsiders.

On his weibo, Shi Shusi, a commentator from Caijing Magazine, lambasted Beijing for its exclusionary bent: “If you purely and utterly detest high property prices, you may savour the long-lost joy [of the measures]. But sadly, the method used is discrimination… Among the 17 million people living in Beijing, 5 million come from elsewhere and have no family registration (in Beijing). Most of them are not speculators. Rather, they are constructors and contributors. But do they deserve discrimination for lack of a hukou?”

Pan Shiyi, chairman of Beijing-based property developer SOHO China, also detected another motive. He reckons that the regulation is aimed not only at curbing home prices, but also at alleviating shortages of natural resources created by rapid urbanisation (the city has a huge water deficit, for example).

Beijing’s authorities are clearly under pressure to control population growth. An investigation last summer found that the city population (those living in Beijing for six months or longer) topped 19.7 million by the end of 2009, or two million more than official figures had suggested, says the Economist.

In a development plan published seven years ago, the government announced that the population should not top 18 million till 2020 at the earliest – meaning its target was breached eleven years early. Beijing officials normally like breaking targets; but not this one, apparently.

Overpopulation has led to rising complaints about the capital’s perpetual traffic congestion and crowded public transport. In late December officials introduced new measures to ease the traffic, by restricting the number of cars (see WiC90). The new rules also ban out-of-town cars in much of the city during peak hours. Many Beijing residents blame newcomers.

With their hopes of owning a home dashed by the property control orders (assuming that they could even have afforded one in the first place), the non-Beijing born have been expressing their frustration.

Feng Xiaoyuan, a Chongqing-born animation designer who has worked in Beijing for three years, is one of those concerned about the new changes. “As I plan to get married next year, the new regulation disappoints me,” he told the China Daily.

“It means my partner and I can’t buy our own home here. We have to live in a rented apartment and worry about the rising rents.”

Others were angrier. One wrote online: “We are all workers and taxpayers. Outsiders have contributed no less to Beijing than locals. This is unfair!”

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