AUTHORITIES in Beijing have launched sweeping evictions of workers who have migrated from elsewhere in China, triggering a public outcry over the treatment of low-paid residents.

Workers say whole families have been evicted, often with little notice, leaving them scrambling to transport belongings in freezing weather.

Last week, the city launched a 40-day campaign to clear out tenants from buildings deemed unsafe after a massive fire killed 19 people at apartments rented mainly by low-income Chinese migrant workers.

“They called us at 5am and by 8am they had arrived with demolition equipment,” said Bi Yan’ao, a 54-year-old migrant worker who has lived in Beijing for 13 years

Most tenants living in such homes on the outskirts of the city are factory workers, construction labourers, delivery people, drivers, cleaners, or hairdressers who come from poorer parts of China.

Others run their own small wholesale businesses and shops selling cheap goods. Some have lived in the city for years with their children.

The Beijing city government said last year it plans to cap the city’s population at 23 million by 2020 and cut by 15 per cent the number of people in six main districts.