Regarding himself as a "small potato" in Beijing, construction worker Bai Gang from southwest China's Sichuan Province never imagined that he would one day patrol the streets like a policeman.
Bai, 40, who arrived in the capital in March, yesterday became a volunteer to help safeguard public security in the city.
Wearing a red badge on his arm that reads "Assistant Public Order Keeper," Bai will have new duties like watching out for crime in his community, and publicizing security knowledge to his migrant peers.
"I felt a sense of identification," Bai told China Daily, adding that it was his first time in Beijing, and he had not left the construction site in the past seven months.
"Now I can do much more here than just build a high-rise and then say 'bye-bye.' I can tell my relatives in my hometown that I am not a passing visitor but a useful member of Beijing," Bai said.
Bai is just one of the 1,000-plus migrants around the city that became such volunteers yesterday.
They are the first batch of security helpers among the city's 4 million migrants, who constitute nearly 30 per cent of the total population.
These volunteers will be an important force for safeguarding public order during the 2008 Olympic Games, said Qiang Wei, deputy secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Speaking at the project's launch ceremony, Qiang said the migrant volunteers, along with police and other security forces, will patrol neighborhoods and public places in the lead up to the Games.
Guan Xihua, an official with the population management division of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said by the end of this year around 15,000 migrants in Beijing are expected to join in the special security force, and by July 2008 the number is likely to top 100,000.
"The migrant population in Beijing is a huge and complicated group to manage," Qiang said.
"A number of criminals usually hide themselves among the migrants. These volunteers usually know better than anyone about the goings-on in the migrant community. They can help the police a lot in keeping public order."
Mobilizing ordinary people to look out for crime is a traditional Chinese practice. A number of Beijing natives have already volunteered to safeguard neighborhood security.
Li Haiming, 26, another migrant volunteer, told China Daily yesterday that in his community, there were several natives wearing the red arm badges.
"Now I am one of them," Li said. Li is a chef from neighboring Hebei Province working at a restaurant in southern Beijing.
"I felt a sense of being a master of the city," Li said, adding that he plans to buy a house in Beijing and then settle his family in the city.
(China Daily November 2, 2005)