Beijing Forbids Underground Housing Ahead of Olympics

June 21, 2008 Updated: June 21, 2008

Beijing authorities are clamping down on the sale of underground housing in an effort they clame is meant to strengthen security measures before the Olypmic Games.

According to the Hong Kong edition of Ming Pao on June 11, authorities have begun to clear out such underground hotels in the area surrounding Olympic Village since the end of April. In late May, authorities ordered that no underground hotels or basement rooms are allowed for rent, and all current tenants must move out before July 1 or they will face punishment.

The official reasons are claimed to be “to ensure security measures before the Olympics and strengthen population management of out-of-town visitors.” The policy is supposed to be temporary and the situation is expected to return to normal as soon as the Olympic Games are over. The renters, however, will not be provided any compensation.

Basement rooms had previously been used for storage until 1990s when large numbers of people began migrating to Beijing. Some Beijing residents remodeled their basements and rented them to generate extra income. Most basement renters are migrant workers, who are typically at the bottom of the social class.

According to statistics, more than 100,000 out-of-towners will have to move away from such subterranean hotels.

Some Internet users have began to complain about this situation on online message boards.

“I live in a basement at Beichen. My landlord suddenly notified us that, because the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) is taking charge of all the underground shelter hotels and is not allowing any basement room to be rented near venues for the Olympic Games,” one Internet user said in an online forum.

“I spent two days looking for an underground room to rent, and was told that no such rooms were allowed for rent. What do you think we should do with our less than 2,000 yuan (US$290.78) per month?

“The authorities told foreign media that they would not force migrant workers to move out of the city. But don't they always have a way to trick and hurt people in China? When hard tactics fail, other methods are used. Now we have to move away from these shelters, because we cannot just sleep on the streets or bridge tunnels.

“We were also notified to move several days ago. We have been looking for a place to live for a week.”

“I live in the Caoqiao area outside the southern Third Ring Road. Now I was notified to move. The reason that all underground shelters or basement rooms have to be emptied is to support the Olympics. Where shall we go? The apartments are too expensive and I cannot afford it. Isn't this driving us out-of-towners home? I have been working hard to build Beijing, and in the end was driven away. I feel in this Year of the Rat, us out-of-towners are like rats and are driven everywhere not being able to find a place to live!”

<i.Ming Pao quoted a man surnames Zhang from northeast China saying that the banning policy arose suddenly, not giving them enough time to determine what to do. In addition to the financial burdens, they will suffer both “physical and mental inconvenience.”