According to Bloomberg, tens of thousands of migrant workers in Shanghai are facing eviction as the metropolis fastens the process of renovating derelict villages.

These city villages, or Chengzhongcun , are heavily compacted and have poor sanitation and safety qualities. They undermine the look of a city that aims to become more international. Officials want to retrieve the land and repurpose them into top-notch areas. This means sudden homelessness to inhabitants, who are mostly non-locals with limited income.

It was reported this month that Shanghai has decided to recover six villages within Beicai town, Pudong district. The overall land covers around 2 million square meters.

For resident Li, this has been her second time facing sudden eviction. The last time was over a year ago when another village in Pudong was taken over and turned into a public park. For both cases, Li told Bloomberg she received no help or compensation from the local government.

Shanghai has been looking to uproot the villages since 2014, but the neglected areas became a sore in the eyes of officials after the chaotic COVID outbreak this spring. During the time, the city identified at least 72 urban villages that they deemed COVID hotspots. They said the areas were the most challenging to control transmission, citing their compacted and substandard characteristics.

As Bloomberg cited, Huang Qiyi, deputy government head of Beicai, said, “The epidemic is the catalyst for us to launch this round of ‘cheng zhong cun’ transformation, which has been under consideration for a long time.”

People living in these neighborhoods often share an everyday cooking and bathroom space. During the lockdown, Bloomberg recalled from state media that all public restrooms were shut down. Around 77,000 portable toilets were distributed, and the disinfection process took days.

After a makeover, the areas will no longer be affordable to migrant workers such as Li. The evictions will drive them back to their hometowns or cheaper housing in remote areas.

Tao Ran , a Chinese University of Hong Kong professor, commented, “The demolition of some urban villages has been brutal and that has caused some dissatisfaction with the government.”

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