Beijing is kicking out thousands of poor residents who live in former bomb shelters

Out of the shadows.
Out of the shadows.
Image: Reuters/Wilson Chu
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Beijing’s so-called “rat tribes,” people living in underground, makeshift homes because they can’t afford the city’s sky-high apartment costs, are getting evicted.

Authorities in Beijing have been clearing people out of former air raid shelters and abandoned storage basements over the past three years, according to a Beijing News report (link in Chinese). Over 7,000 homes were found during the evictions and a little over 120,000 people were kicked out. The city will begin redeveloping the spaces into public areas, according to the report.

The existence of as many as two million people living underground speaks to the country’s growing inequality. Last year, a 52-year old man living among heating pipes in Beijing’s Chaoyang district attracted national attention when police sealed off the manhole leading to his home, prompting criticism of the city’s treatment of its poorest.

Bloggers commenting on the recent eviction news, posted on the People’s Daily page on Weibo, also appeared concerned.”Where will they go now? They are so poor,” one user wrote (registration required)

Here is an interview by Al Jazeera with one of these subterranean dwellers, a young man who moved to Beijing from Inner Mongolia, describing his life underground: