After two years of toil on an Olympics-linked electrical project, 50-year-old Dai Yi has been packed off to his country home, unable to witness first-hand the fruits of his work at the Beijing Games.
Dai is one of many laborers and others lacking Beijing residence papers who say they have been ordered out as the city’s pre-Games clean-up turns toward its millions of ragtag migrants.
“The authorities will not let us stay. It’s because of the Olympics,” said the diminutive laborer, his work-roughened hands dragging two beat-up suitcases through a crowd at Beijing’s main train station.
Headed home to poverty-stricken Anhui Province, Dai has lost the roughly 1,000 yuan (about US$145) in monthly earnings that was an important lifeline to his extended family of eight back home.
“I don’t have a job now so I won’t be able to make any money until I figure out what to do,” he said.
Dai and other migrants said they were instructed by authorities to leave Beijing this week as the city enters the homestretch for the Beijing Olympics, which begin on Aug. 8.
The last-minute makeover for the city of 17 million people has included a crackdown on its huge vice industry, a shutdown of work at construction sites, and measures to curb Beijing’s notoriously foul air.
The clean-up now also includes the rough-hewn migrants from China’s vast countryside whose hard work in often dangerous conditions and for low pay has helped fuel Beijing’s growth and build Olympic venues.
The number of migrants in the city topped 5 million at the end of last year, or nearly one in three people in the capital, the city government said at the time.
It was not clear how many such people would leave. An official with the Beijing government’s press office denied migrants were ordered out.
But several migrants said an exodus was under way.
“My feeling is that it is not fair,” Yuan Daxin said, 36, who was also at the train station on his way home.
Yuan, from the northwestern province of Gansu, labored at an office tower construction site until Sunday, when such work across the city was halted.
His employer told workers they were getting an “Olympic holiday.”
However, Yuan noted cheerily that his Beijing work helped his family back home buy its first television, which they will use to watch the Games.