Photos: Migrants’ and Petitioners’ City Homes

Ministry of Tofu translates, together with comments from Sina Weibo, a photo essay showing migrant workers in Chongqing living in improvised tents and shacks, under bridges or on construction sites.

Mr. Zhou, 47 years old, lives under the Sandong Bridge in Chongqing. He does not think there is much worth complaining under such living conditions. “We suffered from wage arrears before, but this is no longer a problem now,” He smiled,“We get 20 kuai (yuan) every day for meals and there’s always meat.” He is pretty content with things as they are now ….

There’re 3 arches of 100 square meters and they hold sometimes more than 40 people. They’ve installed lights, water, and the public toilettes and bath houses pitched with canvas. Crude and simple, people respect each other. Men have a drink together after work while women chitchat about the day.

Some workers live on the site because they have to keep an eye on the heavy equipment, while other workers live usually under the bridges. “It’s not cold during the winter, but it’s really hash when it’s summer”, explained Li Mei, “Yes, it’s not as good as being at home, but since we are all from the rural areas, we’ve been through tougher days. Some dwellings back at home are even worse than this. Anyway, we didn’t hear much complaint around.”

A set of pictures taken by Sim Chi Yin in Beijing last year shows the bleak situation of another group of city outsiders: petitioners living on the streets or in shacks, sometimes for years, while trying to present their grievances to the central government. From VII Photo, via Kathleen McLaughlin (@kemc):

At one end of the chilly underpass, a young girl wailed. Her father, Liu Guojun, limped over as quickly as he could with a bowl of sweet potatoes he had picked up at a wholesale market’s rubbish heap and roasted over a street-side stove. He hoped it would get her warm.

With his mentally ill wife and three young children in tow, the 47-year-old electrician spent weeks under a bridge near Beijing’s Southern Railway Station at the start of this year (2011), trying to ward off winter with a few blankets, canvas sheets and cardboard.

They have a home in China’s central Henan province — over ten hours’ train ride from Beijing — but were forced to sleep rough in the capital in order to right what they see as a terrible wrong.

See more via CDT on the hardships facing migrants, the violence facing petitioners, and the hukou registration system excluding both groups from urban society.


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