Li vows anew to rebuild shantytowns
Premier says reconstruction will be difficult unless people work together
Premier Li Keqiang reiterated his pledge to rebuild more of the country’s shantytowns on Thursday during a visit to a run-down residential area in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
Li stressed his determination to transform the damp and unsanitary living conditions of nearly 100 million people during his visit to Chifeng, the region’s most populous city.
“We can’t let our people live in shanty houses while building skyscrapers on the other side of the road,” he told residents of the Tienan community. “It will be a difficult project, unless we’re in it together.”
The premier said in the Government Work Report to the annual session of the National People’s Congress this month that China will start the construction of another 4.7 million apartments as part of an effort to rebuild shantytown areas.
The Tienan community, an area of less than 500 square meters in downtown Chifeng, has 794 households and 2,373 residents.
It was built in the early 1980s as temporary housing for railway employees, but most of the residents have not been able to afford new houses or move out of the area, said Zhao Yurong, head of the urban neighborhood committee.
Paths made of earth and coke residue led the premier’s way to local households.
“It is common to see here that families with two or even three generations still live under one roof, and their only house is only about 30 square meters,” Zhao said.
The premier visited the house of Zhou Jingyou, 51, who has lived in the community for 20 years.
His semi- underground house has a small yard, where Zhou has set up a kitchen, and his wife uses the remainder of the yard to raise rabbits and dry laundry. Inside, a coal stove burns in the living room, with a chimney projecting through the window.
Zhou lives in the 30-squaremeter house, with his wife, daughter and grandson.
During the rainy season, water can stream into these semi-underground houses, Zhou said. Another problem is sanitation, as the family has to share a toilet with many other households in the neighborhood.
Zhou, who only has a parttime job at a local rubber plant, said they could not buy another apartment because of their limited income.
“We can only count on the government’s aid to move into a new apartment. Otherwise, it would be impossible for us to afford the mortgage,” he said.
Zhou said the premier told him about the government’s project to rebuild the area, and that financial aid will be provided and some of the costs of a new house would be covered.
“It gives us hope. We’re thrilled,” he said.
Sun Xiaoqin, who was also visited by the premier, had lived in the neighborhood with her husband for more than 13 years.
Sun said she was unaware of the premier’s visit on Thursday morning and was surprised when he walked into her grocery store.
“He asked about our income, whether we had to pay taxes and whether our public telephone is still being used by residents,” she said.
“Living here is the only choice for most households here because they can’t afford the rent or housing prices anywhere else,” she said.
China has about 100 million urban residents in shantytowns, and Li has promised to build at least 10 million homes for them by 2018.
As of 2013, China has improved the living arrangements of 2.18 million households in shantytown areas and embarked on projects that could improve accommodations for another 3.23 million households. Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com December 2004, Fushun, Liaoning province “You have my word on moving into a high-rise apartment next time I come here,” Li Keqiang, the then-Party chief of Liaoning province, promised shantytown residents, marking the beginning of his policy to build new homes for residents of shantytowns. 2008 and 2009, Datong, Shanxi province “Mine workers put their work ahead of their lives, and now it’s time for the government to recover their loss,” Li said as he visited shantytowns in the Datong mining area twice in two consecutive years. The rebuilding of the area was completed this year. June 2011, Mentougou district, Beijing “It is the responsibility of the Party and the government to help you improve your living conditions,” Li said as he visited the suburban area in Beijing. The people living in the shantytown area moved into new homes in 2012. February 2013, Baotou, Inner Mongolia autonomous region “The rebuilding of shantytowns is such an important issue for the public that the government should carry it on despite any difficulties,” Li said during a visit to a shantytown community in Baotou. March 2013, Great Hall of the People, Beijing “This government is determined to build at least 10 million homes for shantytown residents in five years,” Li said during his first news conference as premier. June 2013, Zhongnanhai, the central government complex, Beijing The rebuilding of shantytowns can be developed into a new economic driving force for China, the State Council concluded at an executive meeting. The meeting urged governments to concentrate the use of money on major projects and make use of credit financing and social funds in the rebuilding. December 2013, Hongqiao district, Tianjin “Shantytowns are a nationwide problem in many cities, and the government should take tough measures to increase fiscal input and encourage private capital investments in the rebuilding of shantytowns,” Li said during a visit to Tianjin. March 2014, Chifeng, Inner Mongolia autonomous region “The government will speed up the rebuilding of shantytowns and push it onto a larger scale. We cannot tolerate the scene of shantytowns being dwarfed by skyscrapers in nearby cities.”
Premier Li Keqiang checks the ceiling of a resident’s home in Tienan, a shantytown in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on Thursday. He said the government will further renovate shantytowns and move residents to high-rise buildings as soon as possible.