Beijing officials on Friday dismissed as "groundless" news reports that the city is contemplating legislation to expel about one million rural migrant workers during the 2008 Olympic Games.
A number of local newspapers reported earlier Friday that officials with the Beijing 2008 Environmental Construction Headquarters were mulling legislation to "repatriate" workers during the 16 days of the games.
"Migrant workers in the construction industry will be persuaded to return to their hometowns and people who want to come to Beijing at that time should submit a testimonial issued by at least county-level authorities," the Beijing News said.
The newspaper also said that the proposed legislation aims to ease pressure on the city, which will have to manage a huge floating population during the Games.
The newspaper, devoting a full page to the story, said it learnt of the proposal at a conference called by the headquarters on Thursday to discuss key issues that ought to be addressed through legislation.
Zhou Jidong, director of the Beijing Municipal Legislative Affairs Office and also head of the headquarters' legislative affairs task force, categorically rejected the report.
"There are no plans for making any laws or decisions to force migrant workers out of Beijing during the Olympic Games," he said.
What the newspapers reported was "just some suggestions put forward by conference participants and they are by no means what the Beijing municipal government is trying to implement," Zhou added.
Any legal proposal for the 2008 Games cannot clash with the existing legal spirit and must go through the full legislative process before being enacted, said Zhou.
In its reports, the Beijing Evening News quoted Zhou as saying that the legislation under discussion not only aims to provide a sound legal environment for the 2008 Games in host city Beijing, but also to ensure smooth economic and social operation in the capital city.
Beijing is estimated to have a rural migrant population of about four million and most of them are employed in the construction, manufacturing and service industries.
"The migrant workers have had a great role in the development of the capital and they have equal rights to enjoy the achievement of the society, including watching the Olympic Games," said Shen Tiyan, an associated professor with the School of Government at Peking University.
"The game is a grand event open to the whole world."
(China Daily September 16, 2006)