China's Underground Dwellers Find Their Homes Cemented Shut

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China is a place of extremes. On the streets of Beijing, one can see cars that only ever appear in the New York Auto Show and extremely posh women holding the latest designer bags from Paris. But beneath that splendour is a hidden part of China: a class of residents living below the poverty line.

Now, some of these people are being pushed out of their makeshift homes which are literally beneath the streets. As BeijingCream, a Beijing-based news blog reports, residents of some of Beijing's underground "wells" have been removed from their underground homes. Basically, these people live in the underground openings of Beijing's massive drainage and heating system.


The people living in these "wells" have become a hot topic in China over the last few days as reports first appeared on Beijing's Beijing Morning Post. The Beijing Morning Post reported that several migrant workers, living in some of Beijing's "wells," had spread across the city.

Migrant workers in China are workers who leave their hometowns and move to larger cities in search of better-paying work. Migrant workers often do jobs that most people wouldn't consider doing, from the most menial types of labour such as working on the Foxconn assembly lines, to picking up and sorting garbage. One 53 year-old resident of the "wells" told Beijing News that he saves money by recycling scraps and living underground is cheaper than paying about $50 a month to share a bed with another man.


These "wells" that the migrants are living in are open areas where maintenance workers check on Beijing's heating and drainage systems. They are situated under manholes. Beijing Morning Post reports that the wells are about 3-4 meters deep underground with a total area of about 3 meters.


Other Beijing outlets report that despite having a strong smell, these little "wells" are an okay place to live, particularly in the winter, since heating pipes run through the wells.


People living underground in basements or terrible housing situations in China aren't exactly new, but what's heartbreaking about the story is that many people in China were expecting the government to do something to help the migrant workers living in the wells. The government has previously taken "well" residents from their homes and moved them to homeless refuges, reports the Beijing News.


Despite moving them out of the "wells," these migrant workers ended up returning to their underground abodes. This time, the government's idea of helping has been to seal the "wells" shut with concrete. Concrete. They poured concrete cement over the manhole covers.

While it might not be safe to live under the streets of Beijing inside these "wells," it seems a bit drastic to seal off the entrances. Beijing housing is extremely expensive and living in the Capital is growing ever more expensive.

Sources: Migrant Workers In Beijing Kicked Out Of Their Wells, Which They Called Home [HugChina Via BeijingCream]
"井下10年,为了孩子,我觉得值"[Beijing News]
七旬夫妇井下居住五六年 [Beijing Morning News]
Photos: QQ.Com and via BeijingCream

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.


Eric is a Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie.

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