Children use an Ofo bike at a residential area for migrant workers in a village on the outskirts of Beijing on April 16, 2017. Source: Reuters/Jason Lee
1st August 2017
THE Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper has slammed a little-known writer over his authoring of an essay which has sparked debate about the plight of the millions of rural migrants who flock to Beijing for work.
In an article entitled “Beijing Has 20 Million People Who are Faking Lives”, Zhang Wumao from the central Shaanxi province critiqued the economic disparity between Beijing natives and migrant workers.
The piece went viral after he posted it to his WeChat account on July 23, leading the government mouthpiece People’s Daily to claim Zhang had written “fantastically” to stir the emotion of readers.
Zhang’s essay highlighted the tension between “old Beijingers”, or those with “hukou” household registrations in the capital, who can own multiple homes, and migrants kept off the property ladder by sky-high prices.
Beijing is being integrated with the neighbouring city of Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei, with plans to move downtown government offices to a suburban district.
Measures to revamp the city centre have also hit migrants, such as new population curbs and a drive to clean up the ancient hutong alleyways home to thousands of small migrant businesses.
Describing the speed of the city’s expansion, Zhang wrote:
“Beijing is a tumour, no one can control its growth.”
Some commentators applauded the essay’s sharp critique of Beijing and its portrayal of the migrants’ plight, but others derided it as “clickbait”, calling it exaggerated.
Zhang’s original essay is no longer accessible on WeChat, having violated the regulations of China’s Cyberspace Administration, a notice tells users who try to reach it.
WeChat’s operator Tencent Holdings could not immediately comment.