Beijing Residents Resist Urban ‘Clean-up’ Drive By Government

Radio Free Asia, 2008.02.27-

HONG KONG—Ordinary Chinese are increasingly angry at government attempts to “clean up” the nation’s cities ahead of the Olympic Games, with standoffs between local people and the authorities reported across the country in recent days.

At the forefront of the “clean-up,” which is often an official euphemism for the removal of underprivileged people from public places, is Beijing, which is all too conscious of its international image ahead of the Summer Olympics.

Authorities in the capital announced this week a renewed drive to enforce regulations on temporary residents of the city, which require that anyone over 16 years of age from out of town wishing to stay longer than a month for business or study purposes must get a permit from the police.

The scheme has already sparked controversy among netizens, prompting the authorities to slash the fees charged by police for the permits, fees that two out-of-town lawyers say have netted the police around 100 million yuan (U.S. $14 million) so far.

Permits needed to stay in Beijing

Henan-based civil rights lawyer Li Subin and Anhui-based civil rights lawyer Cheng Hai have filed a complaint with the Beijing Municipal People’s Court, saying that the actions of police in Beijing’s Changping county contravene the country’s Administrative Licensing Law.

“It still costs money to get a temporary residence permit…We are talking about around 100 million yuan that the police have collected here,” Li told Cantonese service reporter Lee Kin-kwan.

An officer who answered the phone at the Changping police station said: “I am not authorized to comment.”

According to the Beijing News, police will be checking temporary residence permits over the next few weeks to ensure that all out-of-towners are properly registered. People who fail to obtain the necessary permits may face a fine of up to 50 yuan, the paper said.

Blogger Xiao Xifeng, who has written about the temporary residence permit system in the past, said the fees had been slashed amid public discontent, however.

“I think it’s just an administrative charge of 10 yuan now. In the recent past there have been a few problems with the temporary residence permit system. I think a lot of people felt that the police were behaving just like the chengguan [who get their income from fining illegal hawkers and beggars].” …… (more details from Radio Free Asia: Chinese Resist Urban ‘Clean-up’ Drive)