Too many bikes and mopeds


After two years of ferrying thousands of meals across the capital on his moped for Chinese food-delivery startups, Li Xiaolong was rushing to leave the city Wednesday rather than face the eviction crews that come knocking on doors around him each night. Mr. Li, 29 years old, is one of thousands of workers clearing out of Beijing’s poorer neighborhoods this week, in the latest and more brutal phase of the city’s campaign to revamp itself as a sleeker capital with fewer people. Years of urban growth have clogged the city’s streets and strained its water supply. Beijing officials have said they want to cap the metropolis’s inhabitants at 23 million by 2020 and shrink the population in the city’s center by some 2 million.

The evictions have left a number of well-known companies scrambling, with e-commerce companies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and arranging housing for employees of their delivery services who suddenly found themselves homeless. Food-delivery services Meituan and both said they were attentive to delivery workers needing help. Meal delivery has become wildly popular in China by combining low cost and convenience — a business model heavily reliant on an abundant pool of cheap urban labor.

Wu Panyong, 21, who delivers fruit and vegetables to an elementary school, said he woke Monday morning to his mother pounding on the door, frantic at a notice posted that they had to move out by 6 p.m.—a nine-hour heads-up. They had already taken away several carloads of belongings when word came just hours before that they could stay through the end of the year. But the next day, their deadline changed again: Everyone now must clear out by Thursday. Despite having lived in Beijing all his life, Mr. Wu, the son of migrants, doesn’t have residency rights. Now, for the first time, he faces a move to Kaifeng, 400 miles south in Henan province, a “hometown” in which he has never lived.

And: More than a hundred Chinese intellectuals signed a statement calling the abrupt evictions a violation of human rights. “Any civilized society, any society with rule of law, cannot tolerate this,” the statement said. The intellectuals’ statement was quickly removed online.

PS: don’t try reading the WSJ piece in the affected area.

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