Despite Beijing's repeated promises ahead of next year's Olympic Games to address human rights concerns, officials have signalled they will continue with plans to rid the city of beggars and other undesirables to ensure public order.
Authorities are working with the city police on a plan to expand special holding centres for out-of-town beggars, vagrants and illegal hawkers, who will then be forcibly returned to their home provinces, the state media reported yesterday.
'The plan is to guarantee smooth repatriation by working closely with home cities and provinces,' said daily newspaper The First, quoting government officials who attended a city public security meeting.
The city's Public Security Bureau and State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and local street inspection, tourism and traffic authorities, are working together to ensure that visitors gain a favourable impression of a safe and well-ordered city.
The government views clearing the city centre of migrant riff-raff as vital to protecting Beijing's image before the world media and thousands of tourists descend on the capital in August next year.
The area within the second ring road, home to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and many of the capital's plushest hotels and biggest shopping streets - has been singled out for special treatment.
The number of beggars on the streets of the capital, many of them rural residents from the nearby provinces of Henan and Shandong , has grown in recent years.
Organised teams of beggars in ragged clothes ply the streets in areas frequented by foreigners and tourists, who are often more willing to hand over their change than hardened locals.
The report said officials hope the cleanup, which would also target illegal taxi drivers and poster stickers, would be launched in the latter half of this year, but it did not provide details.
In 2004, Athens' officials removed thousands of immigrants, beggars and the homeless from streets before its Olympics.