China: The woman who lives in a hole

  • 9 December 2013
A woman scavenges for rubbish in China
Image caption Poverty means some turn to scavenging to raise money

A woman in Beijing has spent the past 20 years living in a hole as she's too poor to move back to her home city, it's reported.

Quan Youzhi moved into the underground utility compartment in Beijing after her home in the eastern city of Shangqiu collapsed, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reports. She uses washrooms in nearby Lido Park, and quarrels with her husband who lives in a neighbouring hole. Hot water pipes keep the 9m square compartment warm in winter, but she has to stay above ground in summer when it gets too hot, or if rain causes it to flood. The 66-year-old, who collects empty bottles for a living, says she would like to rebuild her house but doesn't have the money.

Homelessness and poverty remains a problem for migrant workers and older generations in China. Prof Chen Tao, of the China Youth University for Political Sciences, tells the China Daily the elderly find it difficult to get help from the social assistance system because the constitution says families are obliged to support their parents financially.

Quan's days living in the hole may be limited, as local authorities have blocked the entrance to her compartment and others like it with cement after her story appeared in local papers, the Beijing Cream website reports.

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