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China to Renovate First 'Workers' Village' in Shenyang

China has launched a massive program this month to renovate its earliest "workers' village"-- a residential community for workers - in an effort to improve workers' poor living conditions in Shenyang City, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province.

Under the scheme some 125 old and dilapidated houses in the village are scheduled to be pulled down and replaced by new high- rise residential buildings within three years.

The 1.2-square-km "workers' village", the first of its kind designed for workers after the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, was built between the 1950s and early 1960s, when workers were highly respected.

The compact community, built in the architectural style of the former Soviet Union, accommodated employees of large-sized State- owned enterprises that contributed to China's early industrial development.

Workers in the village enjoyed spacious rooms and private gardens, and were wealthy enough to afford telephones and televisions about three decades ago. At that time, many factory laborers in other parts of China endured restricted lifestyles.

Local records show that numerous delegations and tourist groups from 48 countries and regions in the world made a special visit to the village during the 1970s, attracted by its "advanced and rich" lifestyle.

But such splendor is a thing of the past, as the once well-off village has fallen into disrepair.

More than 45,700 people are living in some 200 timeworn community buildings at present. Many of them have been laid off from their jobs, a result of daring economic reforms which led to the bankruptcy of inefficient factories.

The reconstruction program was launched recently after continuous appeals from representatives of the people at annual sessions of the local people's congress.

Under the first stage of the project, the majority of old buildings will be pulled down by 2003 and supermarkets, kindergartens, gymnasiums and swimming pools are expected to be constructed in the village.

Some decrepit buildings will be kept "as a kind of memorial to the history of China's initial industrial development", said the director of the village's street community committee, a grassroots administrative unit in China.

Sun Baode has spent nearly fifty years in the village since he joined the "worker class" in 1953. Now the 70-year-old man lives with his wife and grandson in a 15-square-meter room.

"We are grateful to the well-intentioned project, but we have difficulty in saving money for a new house", was how Sun expressed his concerns while anticipating a brand-new life in the near future.

The renovation project will be subsidized by local government, and groups of low-cost buildings will be set up to meet the needs of poor families, according to an official in charge of the scheme.

"The factory where I was working has been closed down due to bankruptcy, but fortunately, we are not forgotten by the government and society. I believe we will become better off", said Wang Cuiying, a woman laid off from a printing plant here.

Wang, sharing a 24-square-meter house with another four family members, now receives the relief fund for people whose living conditions are below the lowest poverty-line.

"The new renovation program will bring real benefit to all poor people, just like the social security reform launched last year", Wang added.

( People's Daily May 2, 2002)

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