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Beijing Denies Removing Migrant Workers During Olympics

Local officials of the Chinese capital have denied reports that the city plans to expel about one million rural migrant workers for the duration of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Some local newspapers reported earlier Friday that officials with Beijing 2008 Environmental Construction Headquarters discussed legislation to "repatriate" workers during the 16 days of the games.

"The migrant workers 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 a county government," the Beijing News said.

The newspaper, using a whole page to cover the story, said it learnt of the proposals at a conference on Thursday to discuss key issues that ought to be solved through lawmaking.

Yet an official with the headquarters, Zhou Jidong, said the Beijing News report was "groundless".

Zhou told Xinhua, "There are no plans for making any laws or decisions to force migrant workers out of Beijing during the Olympic Games."

Zhou said the newspapers reported "just some suggestions put forward by the experts attending the conference and they are by no means what the Beijing municipal government is trying to implement".

The official said they will release a written announcement later Friday for further clarification.

According to the newspapers, the conference discussed a list of proposals for maintaining public order and traffic management during the Olympics, which also includes suggestions for:

-- permitting car use on alternate days according to whether a vehicle license plate ends with an odd or even number.

-- providing assistance to homeless people and beggars.

-- reducing the number of people working in "small hairdressing salons", which are commonly perceived to be covers for prostitution.

Officials with the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games said they are considering a response to inquiries on the issues.

Beijing is estimated to have a rural migrant population of about four million, of whom a quarter are thought to be construction workers.

(Xinhua News September 15, 2006)

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