Inside China’s Gated Communities for the Poor

The Globe and Mail reports from Shoubaozhuang, one of the migrant villages outside Beijing which is heavily guarded and locked at night under the “sealed management” policy:

It’s one of 16 villages around Beijing that for the past two months have been locked down at night, under a program local authorities call “sealed management.” They say the aim is to get a better handle on the millions of migrant workers who have moved to the Chinese capital in search of work, and who often end up living in poor, dirty and rapidly growing places like the villages south of Beijing, some of which have seen their population grow tenfold in recent years.

Another aim is to curb the rising crime in Beijing and other big cities, which is frequently blamed on the influx of migrant workers. Violent crime in the country rose 10 per cent last year, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which has also highlighted the dangerous and widening gap between increasingly well-off urban population, and the hundreds of millions of migrant workers and rural residents who live in and around the cities in poverty.

The authorities claim to have the support of the local population for the program. But many of those who live here say the gates around their homes are a major inconvenience imposed without consultation, and more proof of widespread discrimination against migrant workers. Those born outside Beijing already face limited access to the capital’s schools, health care and other government services, which they are supposed to return to their hometowns to receive.

“This is against our will. The ordinary people have no human rights,” whispered an elderly man watching the guards inspect a car stopped at the gate to Shoubaozhuang. The guards at the gate said no journalists were allowed to visit what they called a model city.

For more on the policy of “sealed management,” see this Beijing Times report, translated for CDT by Thomas Howell:

Liu Qi and Meng Jianzhu affirm that the Bejing city Daxing district “Sealing the Village Management ” shall be extended to the whole city

2010-07-05 Xinhua Net/Beijing Times

The village surrounded by an enclosing wall, secured neighborhood gates, the entrances to roads with less traffic sealed off, checkpoints causing people and cars to show permits to enter and go out.This new type of community management in the natural villages in Daxing district is inspiring hot debate in society at large. This reporter learned yesterday that the Central Committee Political Bureau Committee and Beijing Municipal Party Committee Member Liu Qi, and State Council Member and Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu a few days ago went to Daxing district Xihongmen town to investigate, accompanied by the Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong.

As for the management effort to carry out a ” village community transformation” in Daxing, Meng Jianzhu gave his full assent. He said, in the wake of the recent fast-paced economic development, the floating population has greatly increased, bringing about many city management problems. This new model of bringing about community transformation management in the villages is a positive and vigorous attempt to analyze and investigate ways of dealing with difficult problems. He hopes the action taken in Daxing will be pushed forward and further explored.

Liu Qi said, The model being carried out in Daxing is being developed into a comprehensive plan for Beijing as a whole. He said it improves management efficiency, cuts down on criminal cases, improves the village environment, and increases the peoples’ sense of security.

On the Scene

Daxing district Xihongmen town Dasheng village was the first place this new model was put into effect. As with other such villages, there is a checkpoint at the village entrance. People on foot or in vehicles must produce a pass to go through. At the village entrance Liu Qi picked up and examined a certain person’s pass. Below the registration information there appeared the person’s name, gender, ethnic group, as well as his or her place of origin, occupation in Beijing, identity card number, and cell phone number. He attentively questioned the patrolmen on duty “Is this your only job, or do you have other responsibilities? How many are on your team? Is someone always here for 24 hours?”

An official cadre in the Daxing Public Security branch office said, Dasheng village is one of those in Daxing in which the phenomenon of inverted population is the most severe. Members of the floating population number more than 2400, outnumbering permanent residents by 7 to 1. Public security problems are prominent. But putting up the enclosing wall, secured gates, police boxes, etc, has resulted in zero incidents of crime in three successive years. The 16 villages of Daxing Jinxing district have all put into practice this community management. The patrolmen and officials involved with the floating population altogether number 414.

Yang Guimei is a long time resident of Dasheng village. Inside his household compound there are five buildings, rented out to nine people.Liu Qi opened up and looked at the documents Yang Guimei has put together concerning his migrant worker registration. He asked about what procedures Yang Guimei follows when he rents. “Are you required to file with the Floating Population Management branch office? Do your buildings conform with the standards for renting?” Yang Guimei produced a booklet detailing his responsibilities as a landlord. In winter there must be heat, in the rainy season the building must be secure and dry. Only after signing an agreement at the Floating Population Management office, is he allowed to rent. “Are your tenants satisfied with the state of public security here?” Liu Qi asked. Yang Guimei pointed to a bicycle outside. “You see that bicycle?It has been put there for several months. Before no one would dare to leave it for an hour –it would be gone!”

“The higher-ups praise us” The Dasheng Party Branch Secretary Li Wuxiang happily told this reporter. They have put more than 20 people into this community management effort. Some are on duty during the day. Then at night after they seal off the area, patrolmen take their shifts. The whole village is secure for all 24 hours of the day.

Li Wuxiang said, there is a portion of the floating population who engage in selling snacks. They do their best to keep from having an effect on their livelihood. The village allows them to set up stalls outside their stores at night, and to solicit business. The village residents used to complain that cars passing by at night harassed them. Now, with the community management, cars cannot drive through the village at high speeds, and the villagers can sleep soundly. Based on the residents’ suggestions, use of cars in the village has been limited, and parking is only in designated areas.

Reporter Zhang Ran, from the Beijing Times (京华时报).

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