Hua Yong: Artist flees Beijing after filming mass evictions of migrant workers

Residents 'have no heating and no supermarkets to shop for groceries, because they have all been shut down' 

Jon Sharman
Thursday 14 December 2017 01:06
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Artist films devastation of mass evictions in Beijing before being forced to flee

A Beijing based artist has fled the Chinese capital after posting videos showing the evictions of migrant workers from their homes on social media.

In another film Hua Yong, posted to Twitter, he said he was on the run after filming and publishing videos that documented the clearing of what authorities have said were unsafe buildings.

In mid-November fire ripped through a housing block in the capital’s southern Daxing district, killing 19 people.

Since then the government has embarked on a controversial safety campaign that included the sudden eviction of thousands of Chinese migrant workers from low-cost housing in unregulated slum districts.

Mr Hua claimed some 100,000 people have been affected, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US-funded news outlet.

“The [remaining] evictees still have water and electricity over there in Daxing but they have no heating and no supermarkets to shop for groceries, because they have all been shut down,” he told the station.

One of his videos showed him walking along a road in front of a row of buildings reduced to rubble.

In another, he interviewed a worker who claimed authorities had told him they would use a forklift to pull him out of his home if he refused to leave.

The evictions, which Beijing officials said were a precautionary measure, have drawn widespread condemnation on social media from China‘s middle class.

Hundreds of migrant workers held a rare protest against what they said were “violent evictions” over the weekend.

Earlier this month Zhou Xinci, the wife of a factory worker who moved to Beijing four years ago with her family, said: “They are chasing people away from apartments and smashing things. How wouldn’t a child be scared? My son is scared and can’t sleep at night, of course I’m scared too.”

The eviction drive has been met with widespread anger and criticism online.

Some have claimed it lays bare a stark inequality in China that prevents poorer migrants who provide essential services in cities from enjoying the same status as the cities’ residents.

Under the country’s household registration, or “hukou” system, Chinese migrant workers who can’t obtain “hukou” in the cities they work in are often denied access to subsidised health care, education and social services.

Most tenants living in such homes on the outskirts of the city are factory workers, construction laborers, delivery people, drivers, cleaners, or hairdressers who come from poorer parts of China.

Others run their own small wholesale businesses and shops selling cheap goods. Some have lived for years in the city with their children.

Mr Hua was detained in 2012 after engaging in a piece of performance art at Tiananmen Square, and sent to a labour camp for more than a year.

Since his release he has been under surveillance, he said in the letter posted on Twitter on 8 December.

Additional reporting by agencies

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