A man runs past a homeless person near Beijing South Railway Station on January 22, one of the coldest days this winter.(Photo: Global Times/Li Hao)
As large swathes of China shiver through a harsh winter, even provinces in South China have received snowfall, an extremely rare sight in the normally balmy region.
However, as people hide in their homes and share pictures of the cold snap, life is especially harsh for the homeless.
Over the weekend, Beijing recorded its lowest temperatures in three decades. On Saturday, Beijing's urban area dipped to -17.4 degrees Celsius, while the suburban Yanqing district recorded an extreme 29.8 degrees below zero. The highest temperature during the day was -13 degrees. Gushes of strong winds lashed everything in the streets, making outdoor activities unbearable for most people.
During such extreme weather, there are still people that have nowhere to stay and must brave the cold and try to survive outdoors. The Global Times reporter saw a number of people huddling under road bridges or beside walls in the capital.
Many of them are long-time petitioners from around the country who try to appeal to the central authorities to help with their grievances back home. Taoranting bridge and bridges near Beijing South Railway Station are popular places for petitioners to sleep due to their proximity to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls. Many petitioners have been in Beijing for years and even decades trying to get their problems addressed.
Beijing police usually send homeless people to rescue stations where they can temporarily receive food and accommodation. However, as the stations will then send them back to where they are originally from, petitioners often avoid being "rescued" and stay out in the cold.