The Beijing municipal government has removed 2,010 people living in illegally-built underground shelters near Tiananmen Square for safety reasons ahead of the annual sessions of China's top legislative and advisory bodies.
With the help from police and firefighters, the capital's Hepingmen sub-district office has demolished 1,557 illegally-built shelters since January 24 to eliminate the biggest security hazard that had threatened the Tiananmen Square area for 10 years, news site people.com.cn reported on Wednesday.
The report said this move also aims to prepare for the "two sessions," which are the fifth sessions of the 12th National People's Congress and the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The two sessions will begin in Beijing on March 5 and March 3, respectively.
Before the government demolished the shelters and removed the residents, it sent them notices. The government then cut off their water and power, said the report.
Niu Fengrui, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the shelters could have easily caught fire due to the lack of ventilation. "Also, criminals, such as drug addicts, prefer to stay in underground shanties because they are difficult for police to find," Niu said.
The China Times reported in 2015 that over 1 million people were living in Beijing underground shelters. In 2015, radar was used to detect unauthorized shelters in Beijing. The crackdown comes after a lawmaker built a basement in his courtyard that caused neighboring houses to collapse.
The Beijing municipal government is committed to clearing the underground, but faces the dilemma of resettling people they remove from the premises, said Niu. He added that the local government is gradually encouraging people to live in the suburbs to ease the traffic pressure on downtown areas.
To ease "urban ills," Beijing will move some of its city administration to Tongzhou, which is about 40 minutes' drive from the city center.