THE BEIJING AUTHORITIES' violent move to expel the so-called "low-end population" has rendered many workers originally from other regions homeless. In the meantime, the policy to replace the burning of coal for heat with natural gas and electricity has been plagued by construction delays, because of which residents in many areas are shivering with cold. These policy blunders can be summed up in one term — bureaucracy.
In the past, the Beijing authorities did carry out routine inspections of flats that did not meet residential requirements and ordered that they be rectified. However, as the problem, though prevalent, did not pose an imminent danger, government officials connived at it, which was also indicative of their bureaucracy. The blaze in the Daxing region on 18th November resulted in 19 deaths. The regional government took prompt action and inspected all the flats that posed a safety hazard and evicted the residents. Now the measure of conducting checks on housing that is potentially dangerous is what every government should do promptly. But the yardstick by which to measure how bureaucratic a policy is how it is executed.
Beijing has now a population of over 20 million. The urban sprawl is continuing, creating problems ceaselessly. Seen in this light, the incumbent government's proposal to get rid of Beijing's "non-capital functions" is a laudable move. In fact, wholesale markets that are situated amid the hustle and bustle of a city not only affect the cityscape, but also create a larger problem — serious traffic congestion that can otherwise be prevented. As the disadvantages of keeping these markets outweigh the advantages, they should be outlawed. The question is how.
The term "low-end population" is derived from "practitioners of low-end occupations". Government officials and scholars, too indolent to learn the proper respect they should give other people, began to use "low-end population" as an abbreviation in different documents and on different occasions. As the so-called "low-end population" live in housing that is potentially unsafe and work in sectors that are not part of the functions of the capital and that are to be phased out, their room to eke out a living in Beijing is getting increasingly limited. The government's violent move to evict them is an act of bureaucracy.
As for the burning of pulverised coal in villages, it is not only inefficient but also a major factor in pollution. Recently in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, decrees have been issued to ban the practice, which is common in villages in Northern China. This will go a long way towards solving the pollution problem of Beijing and reducing national carbon emission, and as such is the right move by the government. The substitution of natural gas or electricity for coal as a source of heat is not only clean, but also beneficial to the reduction of environmental pollution caused by the transportation of coal. Though it is slightly more expensive, it is worthwhile to make the switch given its protection for the environment. The question is how the policy should be carried out.
In expelling the "low-end population", the Beijing municipal government has earned itself a place of infamy for being "cruel and unjust". This is because those people were languishing low down in the social hierarchy and the government paid no regard to the fact that they would be rendered homeless out in the bitter cold if they were evicted. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has offered hopes of national rejuvenation and aroused people's high expectations. Bureaucracy must not be allowed to tarnish the spirit of the 19th National Congress, which is to regard people as the top priority.