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In a city with over 3,000 yuan rental per month, humble abode had become only one choice for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers. Photographer Sim Chi Yin took a series of photos reflecting the situation of the people living at basement in Beijing, during February to August, 2011.
Niu Song, 33, and his wife Zhao Ansheng, 32, living in the room of a basement both came to Beijing and sought a job being chefs in a Yunnan-flavor restaurant. There are about 7 million migrant workers in Beijing, taking up around one third of the total population in the city.
Da Yu from Heilongjiang province, 21, working at a KTV club in Beijing, rent the room in basement for one year.
Jiang Ying, 24, and Li Ying, 23. Jiang was a waitress in a bar, and Li worked as a staff in a company. They decorated the room with pink wall papers.
He Bing, 23, from Chongqing Municipality, was preparing for the interview of a promoter for insurance and trying a new tie and shirt borrowed from others. He rent the room in basement with his two friends.
Bao Ruiqian from Inner-Mongolia, 20, was playing the game “cutting fruits” on iPad, an electronic product of Apple Inc. She came to Beijing to join a training course on hairdressing, and hired the room in basement together with her boyfriend with the rent 400 yuan per month.
One woman with her child was walking into the room in basement.
In late 1990s, the local government started to run basement or underground space for hiring. The basement was used to renting after fixed and decorated. At present, it is estimated that there are 1 million people living in 5,500 basements in Beijing.
Zhang Wenchang, from Henan province, was hired to manage 20 rooms of the basement. A tennis court and park is just above the basement.
The screen of CCTV was showing monitoring video about the basement, where located at the third floor underground. The local government in Beijing temporarily closed some basements during 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; and some even were forced to close again in 2009 due to the 60th anniversary of founding of the New China.
Song Zhifei and Li Guoqiang were doing exercises at the basement. Mr Yan was their kongfu teacher, who were running the 130 rooms at the basement for rental.
Ren Liang, 22, was entertaining two of his friends at the basement room.
Xie Ruanjun, 26, was chatting with her mother online. She served as a waitress in a restaurant near the basement she rented. Like other young migrant workers, they would spend too much time on the Internet.
Sun Kuangda from Hebei province, 29, working at a property management company and his 8-year-old son were watching TV in their 7-square-meter room. Sun, his wife and son had lived in the room for over 1 year.
Li Xinhui from Tianjin Municipality, 21, was surfing the Internet at her room in basement. Li served as a sale for a media company. The tiny room cost her 400 yuan per month.
Zhou Limei, 30, was feeding her 8-month-old baby at the breast. Zhou came from Jilin province. Her family sold their houses at hometown, and hired the basement of the flat. They converted the basement into 140 rooms for rental. 8 people in Zhou’s family relying on rental just lived at 5 rooms here. The authorities put the basement into the unsafe area, where was facing reorganization and check. For that, Zhou’s family members protested against that and asked the local government for compensation.
The landlord was writing a notice about changes in charging time at the public kitchen in a basement.
A tenant was waiting for using public bathroom at a basement.
Hu Wei, 30, was washing clothes at the public toilet. Her husband and she lived at the tiny room in a basement.
50 rooms with more than 100 tenants at a basement converted from underground shelter. At the end of 2011, Beijing Civil Defense (BCD) had started to clear up tenants at basements, which may be completed at the end of 2012. At that time, the basement freed by BCD would be used for public utilities.