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Premier's letter lauds progress in shantytown

Updated: 2014-02-19 07:03
By Xu Wei ( China Daily)

For Gao Junping, an unexpected visit to his home last February by then-vice-premier Li Keqiang helped his family realize a dream of generations - moving out of a run-down residence in a poverty-stricken shantytown.

"My father lived here. I got married and lived here, and so did my son. I don't want my grandson to continue living here," Gao said.

His grandson, Gao Yubo, now 6, created a public stir when he emerged from a closet with no trousers during Li's televised visit last year.

Today, everything has changed. The family is living in a new apartment.

And this month, Gao was surprised again when he received a letter from the premier encouraging him to continue to "use hands of diligence to work for a future filled with hope".

A 57-year-old retired foundry worker in Baotou, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Gao moved to the new apartment in mid-October from his former home in Beiliang, one of the largest urban shantytowns in China.

The move was made possible by an ongoing renovation program under which ramshackle residences are demolished and new structures are built in their place.

Gao sent a letter to the premier on Jan 15 to express his joy, as well as to apologize for failing to offer Li a cup of tea when he visited his home on Feb 3, 2013.

"I hoped he could visit again someday and I could remedy the lack of courtesy," Gao said in a phone interview.

He didn't expect a speedy reply from the premier, but he got one dated Jan 30. It was delivered by Bater, chairman of the autonomous region, during an inspection tour of Baotou on Feb 12.

Li said in the letter that he was delighted to learn that many other local residents had also moved to new apartments.

"The country will continue to intensify its efforts to renovate shantytowns and enable more people living in poverty to realize their dream of comfortable housing," he wrote, saying that health insurance and pension policies will also be improved gradually.

Local authorities stepped up their efforts to renovate the shantytown after Li's visit.

In a meeting with the Beiliang neighborhood committee, Li said that China should not "build high-rises on one side and keep slums on the other side" in the process of urbanization.

He also called for greater efforts to clean up the city's dilapidated areas and to provide better houses for residents. "This is an overarching issue that should be pushed ahead against all odds," he said.

The Beiliang community has been a shantytown since the 1950s. Even today, with 47,000 households and 124,000 residents, 70 percent of residents in the community have no fixed jobs. About 22 percent of Baotou's unemployed residents live there.

Local authorities announced in June that the city will spend 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) over the next four years to renovate the community.

Gao said he hadn't expected to be able to move into a new apartment in the short time he did. He had lived in the shantytown area for most of his life.

Even though his new apartment is only 50 square meters, Gao said it is a sharp contrast to his old home.

"Now I don't have to worry about rain leaking in summer or cold weather in winter. It also has a toilet and a kitchen," Gao said.

The renovation of shantytowns has been a priority of the central government, especially since Li took office as premier in March last year.

As of 2013, the country has improved the living arrangments of 2.18 million households in shantytown areas and embarked on projects that could improve accommodations for another 3.23 million households, 6 percent higher than planned.

Zhao Yinan and Xinhuacontributed to this story.


 Premier's letter lauds progress in shantytown

Gao Junping, a retired foundry worker in Baotou, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, puts a letter from Premier Li Keqiang back in an envelope at his home on Saturday. He wrote to the premier on Jan 15 expressing his joy after moving into a new apartment. Li replied promptly. Xu Han / for China Daily

 Premier's letter lauds progress in shantytown

A screen shot from China Central Television shows then-vice-premier Li Keqiang chatting with Gao Junping at Gao's home last year. Gao's grandson, Gao Yubo, springs from a closet behind them. cctv

(China Daily 02/19/2014 page3)