Beijing will expel “rats” from its underground shelters


Beijing Times, November 17th, 2010

As you may have heard, a large number of people in Beijing live underground.

Here home owners rent out their garages and basements to supplement their household income. The migrants, with meager housing budget, usually find these places appealing.

A different kind of basement is Beijing’s many underground shelters. These relic from the Cold War era are the byproducts of the confrontation between China and the former Soviet Union. They were usually leased out to individuals who refashioned them into cheap hostels to accommodate “rats” (鼠族), a newly coined name to call Beijing’s underground residents.

The recent residential building fire that claimed 53 lives raised alarm for Beijing’s authorities. According to today’s Beijing Times, safety check of Beijing underground residences had been undertaken by the government. Unsurprisingly, it was discovered that many of the residences were illegal and unregistered with fire hazards.

The newspaper quoted Beijing’s civil defense office as saying that the government would gradually ban the underground shelters from being used for residential purpose in the next five years.

The big headline of the newspaper announced that the government would take measures to curb rising food prices. The big image shows people mourning the dead around the burnt out Shanghai building.

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