Residents complain of crowds, costs, stress

Updated: 2011-05-20 08:08

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Cao Hui, a Beijing native, does not like her hometown anymore because she encounters surging prices, unrelenting work pressures and crowds nearly everywhere she goes.

"The reason I'm still in this city is that my family is here," said Cao, a 24-year-old worker at a local institution. "Otherwise, I would leave."

Despite the government's efforts to make Beijing more accommodating to residents, many still find it hard to live there, according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by the Research Center for a Humanistic Beijing at Renmin University of China, polled 500 residents of the capital.

More than 40 percent of them said Beijing is far from being a good place to live in, while 51 percent thought the opposite.

Asked what issue the city should make it a priority to deal with, more than half of the respondents said traffic. Healthcare and the environment were the two next most popular choices.

Residents complain of crowds, costs, stress

Cao recently gave up an offer for a job that was better than the one she now holds simply because the new office would have taken her an hour to get to and she dreaded the thought of having to deal with traffic congestion.

"I feel choked by the crowds in the subway during rush hour," Cao said. "And the air quality in the cars is disappointing."

Cao said many of her college classmates, after their graduations, decided to "drift" into Beijing without owning property or having hukou (permanent residence permit). Many of them have found it difficult to afford the high rents charged in the city and now describe their lives as not being happy.

Official figures show the number of permanent Beijing residents has risen by nearly 45 percent from a decade ago, and one out of every three of them is a migrant from outside the capital.

Zeng Weiming is among the large number of people pouring into the city. He said he came to Beijing to seek the many opportunities that exist there despite the bad living conditions.

"Beijing has the widest range of people in the country, from top officials to the most inferior beggars," said Zeng, 26, a native of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, and now a dancer in Beijing. "I am here to have a different life experience."

For the 2008 Olympic Games, which were held in Beijing, the city adopted the slogan "the humanistic Olympics", and the municipal government has since kept working toward a "humanistic Beijing".

By 2012, the campaign will lead to the undertaking of 10 projects aimed at protecting and improving residents' livelihoods, establishing a public cultural service system, promoting the cultural and creative industries and achieving other goals.

Social experts said a good transport system is the foundation of an accommodating city. They said the current system entails many inconveniences, pointing to the way transfers are accomplished at subway stations.

"It should be as convenient as possible to transfer between two subways," said Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at Renmin University of China. "The reality is far from satisfactory.

"A humanistic city should care for and respect its residents. Instead of winning face for the government, construction projects should accommodate the people.

"There is too much competition in the city and are too few human touches. So how can life here be easy and relaxing?"

Experts said the government should spend more on social security to prevent residents from losing their hope for a happy future.

"A humanistic city should be superior in the medical treatment and pension systems it offers and in social equality," said Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

"That means officials should not enjoy excessive privileges, that residents should enjoy a right to know and speak about society, and to participate in it, and the rights of migrants should be better protected."


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