Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  China News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Beijing bricks up shops: Beauty or 'hideous'
By Becky Davis
Beijing (AFP) Aug 25, 2017

It took Zhang Zhimin a decade to cultivate a loyal clientele at his imported shoe shop facing one of central Beijing's busiest streets.

Yet it took authorities no time at all to make his life's work disappear behind a wall of bricks.

Just two days after receiving a government notice, men arrived with cheap cement and wheelbarrows of clay blocks to seal off Zhang's store door and windows, despite his protests and possession of an official business operating licence.

It has become a familiar sight in China's capital -- doors and windows of businesses operating in areas zoned as residences are being plugged with bricks, most notably in the city's charming and bustling alleyways known as hutongs.

It is part of a broader campaign that authorities say will beautify the city, reduce overcrowding and ease pollution as it enforces zoning codes.

Critics, however, call it a misguided land grab which is driving out migrants to turn the city centre into a playground for the rich.

"It's the same process as when China had emperors: if you don't close your shop, we'll chop your head off. Where's our say in this?" Zhang said angrily.

Though technically his windowless shop is allowed to continue operations through a side door, business has dropped so drastically he will not be able to pay the rent. He now plans to move back to his hometown in southern Guangxi province.

"In the future, China will be divided into two separate societies - the rich areas, comparable to Tokyo or New York, and the poor areas, comparable to Africa. But the emperor only needs the place where he lives to be pleasant."

- Award winner closes -

Across Beijing's ancient city centre, authorities have also torn down or bricked up residences that they say were illegally built.

The structures, often self-built, housed migrants running the barbershops, dry cleaners and restaurants that brought a vibrant, cacophonous life to the hutongs. Most former residents have already left.

"Who will do the grunt jobs? All the lower salaried people have been chased off," said Wang Liguo, a hutong fruit shop owner who said he couldn't find a salesperson to hire since the campaign began.

Many sushi vendors, cocktail bars and coffee shops that have popped up in recent years alongside local dumpling vendors have been bricked up.

Even well-known establishments like Big Small Coffee have not been spared. The closet-sized hutong space was shortlisted in July for a prestigious World Interior of the Year award, but it closed weeks later, unable to operate without a door.

The changes are part of a year-long, 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) campaign to "recover the original appearance of the hutong, which is an integral part of the capital's traditional culture," the China Daily newspaper quoted a local official as saying.

- 'Now it's hideous' -

But conservationists are divided as to whether the campaign is restoring or destroying the history of the hutongs.

Matthew Hu, trustee at the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre, said he believed the changes were moving in a "good direction" for hutong conservation.

Since historically 90 percent of spaces in such districts were non-commercial, demolitions and closures could be seen as merely "going back to normal," he said.

Privately carried out ad hoc renovations and add-ons in recent decades were "not very authentic at all," Hu said.

But the small government team in Beijing tasked with regulating such additions had lacked the manpower to crack down on illegal construction, he added.

"It's not like in a new apartment complex, where what is public and what is private is very clear -- because of the history in the hutongs, there's a lot of grey. You can't just do whatever you want with your house."

But a government official in the Dongcheng district cultural bureau, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the campaign was the disastrous result of botched bureaucratic communication.

"Nearly a decade of preparatory reconnaissance work was completed - every hutong analysed and photographed - but no one asked us for those surveys," he said.

"They just went out and did whatever they wanted to do, without even coming up with unified standards," he said.

The official said his bureau was now providing training to those involved in the campaign, but he feared that it was too little, too late.

"Now it's hideous, and even traditional courtyards that ought to have been preserved have been covered up."

In Chinese community, one-night stands are getting old
Zhaba, China (AFP) Aug 22, 2017
Nimble after years of practice, Trinley Norbu is used to hoisting himself three stories up the side of a stone house and through the window for a one-night stand in his southwest China community. While other young men squire their love interests to dinner or a movie, Trinley Norbu has honed his climbing skills, long the key to successful courtship for men in the small matrilineal Zhaba ethni ... read more

Related Links
China News from

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

China's satellite sends unbreakable cipher from space

Xian Satellite Control Center resolves over 10 major satellite faults in 50 years

China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

US launches formal trade investigation into China

US in 'economic war' with China, says Trump strategist Bannon

China's Xi calls for more imports and more 'open economy'

Australia to regulate virtual currency exchanges like Bitcoin

On third MH17 anniversary, families unveil 'living memorial'

Top American general says attack on Japan same as on US

New US envoy reassures Japan over security pact

India, China troops in high-altitude clash: officials

UAE nuclear programme edges toward 2018 launch

129I waste used to track ocean currents for 15,000 km after discharge from nuclear plants

Analysis highlights failings in US's advanced nuclear program

Clashes at anti-nuclear demo in France

Major cyber-attack as costly as Hurricane Sandy: Lloyd's

'Oh, bother': Chinese censors can't bear Winnie the Pooh

China opens its first 'cyber court'

US creates separate unified cyber warfare command; National Guard activates cyber-security task force

UAE nuclear programme edges toward 2018 launch

129I waste used to track ocean currents for 15,000 km after discharge from nuclear plants

Analysis highlights failings in US's advanced nuclear program

Clashes at anti-nuclear demo in France

Wind energy blows up storm of controversy in Mexico

U.S. extends wind energy taproots into Zambia

Night vision for bird- and bat-friendly offshore wind power

Norway's Statoil reshapes hold of giant wind farm off the British coast

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement