Beijing, Newly arrived


A little over 10 people from a small village in Sichuan province just arrived in Beijing to work on a construction site. They are waiting for a bus to take them to their dormitory. Around 3,000 people used to live in their hometown, but these days more than half of them work in big cities.


We talk with one the female workers. She tells that more and more female migrant workers go to cities for construction work. Just like her. “There is no way out if one stays in the village”, she says.



She has a 16 year old child studying arts in the high school of her hometown. She felt the child did not need too much care anymore and decided to work in the big city to earn money for the child’s tuition fee in college. Her parents take care of the child at home.


Several workers reply, when asked if they carry any personal belongings like photos of family members, that they only brought useful things like a quilt, clothes and some daily necessities.




Beijing, Legal proceedings


We walk in XiCheng district at a place were a few years ago you could walk through old hutongs. The residents have all been relocated to suburbs and the place is now a construction site of mid- to high-end apartments for retired government officials.


Mr. Huang Genhua approaches us. He asks if we are journalists. “No, we are not”. He likes to tell us his story anyway; for this blog. Knowing that a published story with his photo could cause him problems, we ask him again and he insists that is what he wants.


In 2005, Huang Genhua worked as a foreman at a construction site in Hebei. At a given moment the boss refused to pay the workers. Mr. Huang then paid the workers himself, but the boss still owns him 5,000 RMB.


According to Mr. Huang, he started a legal action against his boss in a local court. However, the court ruled before the scheduled proceedings without hearing him. The court ruled that his boss only needs to pay him 1,000 RMB. Mr. Huang appealed and when to an intermediate court. The judge in that court confirmed the ruling of the local court and asked Mr. Huang to apologize to his boss. When he attempted to continue legal proceedings, the court terminated the case.


Up to now he never received the 1,000 RMB his former boss should have paid him according to the court ruling.


Mr. Huang felt the treatment by the court was unfair. He claims that his former boss settled the matter with the judge by treating the judge with a dinner.  It is for this reason, he said, that the judge ruled before the scheduled proceedings that never took place. Now he has come to Beijing to start legal proceedings against the court.


Mr. Huang tells us that he needs exposure in the media and repeatedly stresses that he has all the evidence needed to confirm of what he said.


Finally, Mr. Huang and two of his friends show us some bruises and scratches. Mr. Huang says they were beaten up three days ago because he did not let go of the case.




Beijing, Construction Workers’ Dormitory


Han Yunpeng, Han Zhaojian and Mao Zhongyu are construction workers. They live in a prefab dormitory, with its typical white walls and blue frames, on a construction site at Jiu Xianqiao. Workers at the construction site come from various provinces in China. However, all roommates in their room come from the same village in Jining, Shandong province. Around 1,300 people live in their village and two third of them share the family name “Han”. Han Yunpeng, Han Zhaojian and Mao Zhongyu tell us that they were already good friends before they came to Beijing.


Workers at the site (for a new subway line) have one week of day shifts, followed by a week of night shifts. They get paid when the construction project is finished. This pay depends on their working hours. The more hours they work, the more money they will get. That’s why they seldom ask for a leave. Usually they work seven days a week and they won’t go back to their hometown, except for the Spring Festival and the harvest season. On average they can make 3,000 RMB each month. Not having to pay for rent or meals, they spend very little money each day.


When asked what they intend to do with the money they save, they say it is for their children’s education and they save money for the future weddings of their children.


Each of them has a son in their hometown. Han Yunpeng’s son is in his twenties and studies medicine at a school in Jining. The tuition is 600 RMB per month. Next to that, Han Yunpeng sends 1,000 RMB per month to his son for the cost of living. “He needs a good nutrition”.


Han Zhaojian says that nowadays there are more people working in big cities than growing crops in their hometown. Usually the women take care of the crops.


Living under the same roof at the construction site drives them closer to each other. In their spare time, says Mao Zhongyu, they read newspapers and magazines and go out for a walk on the street. Sometimes they go shopping to buy gifts for their family. The prices are affordable.


When asked about their lives in Beijing, they are all very satisfied. The work conditions are good because they work on a government project. The food is fine and they get drinks (BaiJiu) and fruits at the end of the year. The room is heated by an air conditioner and they can call their families whenever they want.




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