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January 27

The Rat Tribe

By Ella Miista
Al Jazeera is often spot on with their reporting. Their new project on the members of shuzu, the rat tribe of Beijing, lives up to that standard. These rats are in fact about 1 million newcomers to Beijing; people that live in the underground rooms, built in old air-raid bunkers and basements of the Chinese city. Most of the rooms technically illegal, they are cheap. There are both young and old residents, cleaners and artists, salesmen and cooks. Despite being crammed into tight spaces riddled with mould that lack of sunlight and fresh air, it’s the starting point needed by many to make it in Beijing. Separated from space and light, it can't be easy. Frankly, it sounds like a health hazard but as sad a story it may sound, the underground dwellers aren't ones to indulge in self-pity. They are building a better future for themselves and hope rings through everything they say. The very fact this arrangement exists speaks volumes, but still not as loudly as the strength of the people powering through it. All images are by Sim Chi Yin for Al Jazeera America. Read about the project here. 21-ChangWanle-02.jpg 06-ChenLaxiu-01.jpg 10-DuXiuyan.jpg 08-GuoXiaolong.jpg 09-Xiaopang-LiYang-02.jpg 14-XuJunping-02.jpg 13-XiaoGao-ZhangXinwen-02.jpg 18-LiuHao-02.jpg
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