Beijing shopkeepers protest evictions
BEIJING – Agence France-PresseOver 100 shopkeepers at a popular Beijing market held a rare street protest on June 23 against what they call unreasonable eviction as the Chinese capital seeks to curb population growth.
The crowd gathered outside the entrance of the Beijing Zoo wholesale market in the west of the city, punching their fists in the air and shouting, “Return our money!”
Rows of police officers encircled the crowd, with some wearing riot gear as the two sides bumped against each other.
Police officers also patrolled inside the market, where many stalls were already shuttered and glass and debris covered floors in sections that were demolished.
Street protests are rare in the Communist-ruled country, especially ones that continue over multiple days, and authorities usually shut them down swiftly.
The merchants say they have been demonstrating since receiving notice a week ago that some sections of the market must clear out by Saturday, and everything must be completely shut down by the end of this month.
Videos some shopkeepers posted on social media showed protesters and police pushing each other on June 22.
“At least three people got hurt and two went to hospital,” said a protester from neighboring Hebei province, who did not want to give his name for fear of reprisal.
Most of the shopkeepers are migrants from other parts of the country.
“I have been paying rent on four stalls after signing a 20-year contract for them. We moved to Beijing to support our children and now we have nowhere to go,” said a woman from eastern Zhejiang province, who gave her name as Ye.
Ye and her husband say they have paid more than 300,000 yuan ($44,000) in shop rent and fees since 2012.
“We are not making any big demands. We just want some appropriate compensation,” said the 33-year-old.
“We have all these suitcases and handbags to sell, but don’t even have any place to store them now,” she added.
Several dozen shopkeepers set up camp inside the market June 23 afternoon, saying they intended to stay overnight past the deadline for leaving.