Official forced into U-turn over migrants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


Provincial leaders in Guangdong eventually agreed on a blueprint for integrating migrants with the local population last week, but the deliberations over it were fraught with controversy.

A case in point was the public backlash that prompted a senior Shenzhen official to withdraw a controversial proposal that called for the cost of living to be raised in order to force poor migrants from the city.

Deputy chief prosecutor Tang Tailai submitted a proposal to the advisory body early last week in which he called for the mass demolition of cheap rental flats - many of them let without government approval - in densely populated village.

He said the move would increase migrants' accommodation costs and act as a barrier, filtering out undesirables. 'Increasing the living costs of migrant people through the large-scale demolition of illegal urban housing will deprive them of places to live and force them to leave,' Tang wrote in his proposal.

He said his thinking was inspired, The South Metropolis News reported, by the fact that more than 80 per cent of crimes reported in Shenzhen last year were committed by migrants.

'To control and limit the population of migrant people is the most direct way to limit criminal cases,' it quoted him as saying.

Tang's proposal was condemned by many internet users and criticised by lawyers and scholars, who described the eviction plan as discriminatory and a violation of civil rights.

'Tang's idea is very ill-considered and lawless. I can't believe such a proposal was from a chief prosecutor,' Shenzhen resident Arnold Kou said. 'He should be shamed for his comments. Shenzhen was just a small fishing village 30 years ago. Everyone in the city, including Tang himself, was a migrant once.'

Shenzhen lawyer Liu Zilong said: 'The proposal brings shame on the city that has been proud of its image of reform and opening-up.'

More than 50,000 internet users posted comments on the forum 'These officials enjoy high welfare and cheap housing,' one wrote. 'They may have already forgotten that what they enjoy is all paid for by taxes on migrant people.'

Another said: 'All migrant workers should leave Shenzhen. That would definitely paralyse the city. '

Later in the week, local media quoted Tang as saying he would withdraw and rethink his proposal.

Shenzhen's population is growing far faster than expected, putting pressure on public services.

The city had 6.1 million residents in 2005, 11 million in 2007 and 15.65 million last year.