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Migrant workers forced out as one of Shenzhen’s last ‘urban villages’ faces wrecking ball

South China Morning Post, China, 22 July 2019 - As their eviction deadline nears, all Chen Jian can think about is the wrecking ball – and where his family is going to go. He often dreams about the negotiations – with officials, real estate developers, landlords. On other nights, he cannot sleep at all.

“I’m mostly worried about my daughter – she starts secondary school in September,” said Chen, 41, who works as a quality supervisor for a foreign trading company.

His family of four lives in a cheap one-bedroom flat in Baishizhou, one of the last standing chengzhongcun, or “urban villages”, in the flourishing commercial zones of southern Chinese city Shenzhen.

The villages provide affordable housing – costing from a few hundred to a few thousand yuan per month – to a mostly migrant worker population that provides services and labour.

But Baishizhou, in the Nanshan district, will not be standing for much longer. Many tenants in the area have received eviction notices since June, telling them to move out before the end of September to make way for a real estate project led by Shenzhen-based developer LVGEM Group.

The developer bought the land and buildings from their landlords, and it plans to knock them down and replace them with malls, hotels, high-end residential projects and skyscrapers.

Some 150,000 people are affected, mostly migrant workers, and they will have to find new homes, change jobs or even move back home at short notice.


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