Woman's 77-yuan rent causes stir

By Fu Wen and Ge Lili Source:Global Times Published: 2011-1-6 17:51:00

An unemployed Beijing woman attracted unwanted public attention after she told President Hu Jintao, during a visit to her home last week, that she pays just 77 yuan ($12) a month in rent.

Guo Chunping, 47, lives on government subsidies. But after China Central Television reported her comments on December 29, Internet users suggested she was a public servant, and that promoted further speculation about her true status.

As it turned out, Guo is qualified to rent the low-income apartment in Lijingyuan Residential Community because she is unemployed and relies on a 600-yuan ($90) monthly subsidy.

Guo told President Hu about her 45-square-meter apartment where she lives with her daughter, CCTV reported.

Guo's words may have raised controversy due to high home prices in the capital.

The market monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the area where Guo lives is around 2,000 yuan ($303).

Lai Jinzhong, 75, a retiree who also lives in another low-rent housing building in the community, told the Global Times Wednesday that he pays 98 yuan ($15) a month for a 48-square-meter apartment.

"I know most of the residents in this building are elderly or disabled people and I am very satisfied with my living condition," said Lai.

Still, Web users were doubtful whether Guo's family qualifies for low-income housing.

Guo told the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily Tuesday that she is not a civil servant as some said on the Internet and she was angry at how Internet users questioned her identity.

Guo said she is divorced and is entitled to the 600 yuan ($91) unemployment subsidy from the local government to support her and her daughter, who is still a student, the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper reported Wednesday.

According to an August 2009 notice from the Beijing Municipal Housing Construction Committee, only those families whose monthly per capita income are lower than 960 yuan ($145) are entitled to apply for low-rent housing, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

A name list published on a website of the Chaoyang district branch of Beijing General Labor Union showed that Guo's monthly income in 2009 was below 507 yuan ($77).

Zhou Xiaozheng, director of the Law and Sociology Research Center at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times Wednesday that rumors about Guo reflected the public's dissatisfaction at rising home prices in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

"Guo's case can't represent the living conditions of the general public in Beijing and the footage showing Guo and her cheap apartment will only inspire public skepticism while many people are still under huge pressure when it comes to buying or renting a home," said Zhou.

Posted in: China Watch

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