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New Year focus on home and the family

A throng of people make their way forward to throw joss sticks into a fire for good luck at Beijing's White Cloud Temple on the first day of the new lunar year
A throng of people make their way forward to throw joss sticks into a fire for good luck at Beijing's White Cloud Temple on the first day of the new lunar year

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Celebrations are under way across the globe marking the start of the Lunar New Year.

In Beijing, thousands have ushered in the year of the goat with fireworks and the traditional beating of the drum. Many also gathered at the Beijing bell tower to count down to the ringing of the giant bell.

Saturday's celebrations mark renewed hopes for good fortune, and a pitch for better luck with whatever curveballs life may throw in 2003.

After a fast paced year of the horse, forecasters say the Year of the Goat will slow down the life cycle, and bring focus on the home life and family.

Traditionally during Chinese New Year people travel across the entire country just to join their families and be at home -- but sometimes home is a temporary place -- and not a very warm one for the holidays.

Developers intent on urban renewal have forced many city dwellers out of their neighborhoods.

Hou Guifen and her family have already been living in their 'temporary' accommodation for nearly a year and like thousands of Beijingers were forcibly moved out with few options, and even fewer explanations.

Market forces

Dong Chanyun keeps asking why the developers who razed his old neighborhood won't talk to him, and why the court where he filed a suit has not responded.

"I'm a citizen, I have the right to reside where I want and to negotiate with the authorities," he says.

The lack of official answers is underlined by a more fundamental reality as China's economy is driven more by market forces than by planning, people like Dong have fallen through the cracks.

They have lost the support of government subsidized housing in an era that's largely over, and yet they can't afford to buy their own homes.

"We've worked for decades already -- I've paid my contributions to society. So at the end of all that, why don't we have money to buy a house?" Dong asks.

More frustrated than actually searching for an answer, Dong wil have to wait and see.

All the harder to do this time of year when expectations are held high by traditional hopes that fortune will bring a better year ahead.


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