Committed to building a safe Beijing for all

By Wendy Min Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/28 22:03:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Last week, 19 people lost their lives in a residential blaze inside a growing suburban neighborhood in Beijing. If you walk through the area, the potential dangers brought about by fire hazards or gas leaks are very evident in this densely populated residential area.

The issue of high population density and hazards such as fires is not an issue just in China, but in many major cities across the world. Population explosion, scarcity of resources, rising costs and the increase of poorly constructed and designed accommodation cannot be solved overnight. It requires long-term planning and ongoing monitoring. 

For first-tier cities such as Beijing, new construction sites and the growth of surrounding neighborhoods see a continuous influx of workers from all over the country. Taking advantage of the wealth of opportunities in big cities is a way for many to improve their living standards. Yet living expenses in big cities is an issue, which results in many people working and living in the same place to maximize their savings.

Although the buildings in which they live may be cheap and convenient, they may also be poorly built and unsafe. Yet despite this, people still make them their homes and more and more flock to such neighborhoods in Beijing in search of a better life.

These workers come from afar, work hard and make important yet often unseen contributions to society. On the small scale, it may just seem like working to pay the bills and put food on the table, but every minute they work they are making an impact. The location where the tragedy struck is known to be an epicenter of garment production in Beijing. Despite each worker only earning a few thousand yuan per month, as a whole, their contributions to the economy, society and development are on a much grander scale.

A city's development is inseparable from the labors made by hardworking people. The city's restaurant owners, street cleaners, delivery personnel, taxi drivers and construction workers all have an impact on our lives. Their efforts and work should not be undervalued, thus nor should anyone see the government's 40-day cleanup as a way to get rid of lower-end workers. The spirit of Beijing is "Patriotism, Innovation, Inclusiveness, and Virtue." In order to prevent such incidents from occurring again, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of Beijing citizens. To be clear, anyone who lives in Beijing is considered as a Beijing citizen. To do this, inspection, monitoring and cleanups are key parts of these efforts. 

Beijing is a developed and international capital city and I feel positive that the vast majority of its people view one another as equal. Although this tragic story has sent chills down everyone's spines, what we can take from it is that the government is united and dedicated to preventing this issue from happening again and will always support a Beijing that is inclusive and welcoming for all. By continuing to fine tune urban planning, Beijing can accommodate all those across the country and across the world who come here in pursuit of their dreams.

It is imperative that we work together and ensure equality for all so that Beijing can continue to be a cosmopolitan capital. A city filled with 20 million people needs a strong labor force to ensure its competitive edge. And we must value the efforts of every worker and the part they play in the city's development.

In light of this tragedy last week, we must pause, reflect and undertake appropriate long-term city planning to turn our words into action. Ensuring that residential housing is safe yet economical is key. I hope that the neighborhoods targeted within the 40-day cleanup can be renovated and used again to house the important workforce who reside in them. Nothing is more important than looking after one another, and together; we can, and must, make all of Beijing a safe place for all workers and residents.

The author is a freelance writer. She was born in China, raised in Australia, educated in China, Australia and France.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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