Wed, Dec 06, 2017 - Page 8 News List

All Chinese are ‘low-end’ citizens

By Yu Jie 余杰

Chinese authorities have taken a recent blaze in Beijing as a pretext to force out what they term “low-end” elements. What they mean by this is migrant workers with neither Beijing household registration nor a residence permit.

When I lived in Beijing, the city would become a virtual ghost town every Lunar New Year, as these migrant workers returned home for the break. During these times there would be nobody to do the low-paid jobs they normally did. There would be no couriers to deliver things; there would be nobody to clean out blocked sewers. At those times, Beijing residents with high-paid jobs fully appreciated just how indispensable these “low-end” workers were.

I had most contact with these “low-end” workers when I was illegally placed under house arrest. Auxiliary police would be stationed outside my door in eight-hour shifts and sleep at night in the cold corridor among discarded cigarette butts. Regular police were allowed to stay in air-conditioned building management offices and would only have to monitor the surveillance cameras.

These auxiliary cops wore their own clothes: They had no uniform. To me, they did not look a day over 18. When I started talking with them, they said they were from farming families, that they worked for security companies and that they had dropped out of high school and left home to fend for themselves. The police station gave them 100 yuan (US$15.13) per day to stand outside my door to “protect national security.”

I asked them if they knew who I was. They said they did not. I asked them, is this legal? They said they were not concerned whether it was legal: They just wanted the money.

Their attitude toward me changed according to the police’s attitude. When the police were particularly down on me, so would they be. Once, when my wife had a fever, I asked if she could be allowed to go to the hospital, but they just blocked the doorway and would not let us pass.

They mocked us, too, saying: “She can die at home for all we care; we are not letting her leave. One more dead person will not be a problem for China. Somebody will take care of it.”

In the end, a compassionate neighbor called an ambulance for us.

Who knows whether the auxiliary cops that had kept us under surveillance and treated us with such derision were among those the authorities kicked out on this occasion.

A journalist in Beijing got it right when he said: “If you live in China, you tacitly agree to the actions of the dictatorial government and tacitly disavow universal values and economic development, and instead advocate for nationalism, then you are a ‘low-end’ element. If there are failings in the social system, then the individual has no guarantees for their future. It does not matter if you are Xiao Jianhua (蕭建華), Wang Jianlin (王健林) or Huang Guangyu (黃光裕), you are still ‘low-end.’”

How right that is. Who in China is anything other than a “low-end” citizen? Even the other six members of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee are not allowed to speak when the TV cameras are trained on them; everyone has to repeat the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), delivered in his Beijing dialect.

Some might believe they are high-status, important individuals. It is only when their daughters are molested by military officers protected by the central leadership that they realize just how lowly their status actually is. Those with high-paid positions force out the low-paid migrant workers, the powerful are free to molest the rich. This is the reality in the much-reduced China.

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