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Beijing, Without the People

China’s capital looked a lot emptier than usual on Sunday.

With a population over 21 million, tranquility is hard to find in Beijing. Except, as it turns out, on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

An estimated 15 million people, mostly migrant workers, left China’s capital city over the past two weeks to go back to their hometowns in time to celebrate the holiday with family.

The annual migration, regarded as the world’s largest, makes for intense crowding and an overwhelmed transit network all over the country. This year, 2.9 billion people were expected to make the journey. The six million or so who stuck around Beijing, meanwhile, were treated to the rare sight of empty roads and buildings all over the megacity.

Vehicles drive on the Guomao Bridge through Beijing's central business district on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A woman walks inside the Peking Union Medical College Hospital on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A passenger walks inside a station of the Subway Line Number 1 on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
A member of security personnel stands on duty on an empty train platform inside a station on the Subway Line Number 1 on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A passenger walks out of a station of the Subway Line Number 1 on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
Vehicles drive on the Jianguomen Outer Street through Beijing's central business district on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A woman drives a motorbike past office buildings in Beijing's central business district on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A cleaner prepares to set up a roadblock at a crossing in Beijing's central business district on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A man walks inside the Parkview Green shopping center on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A pedestrian walks out of an underground passage on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
A woman stands beside the Jianguomen Outer Street on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)
An aerial view of Beijing on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, China, February 7, 2016. (REUTERS/Stringer)

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