Traders, police scuffle at Beijing’s popular market

Agence France Presse

Beijing, January 5:

Beijing’s outdoor Silk Alley Market, a popular tourist shopping haunt renowned for its fake name-brand goods, was shut down today as angry stall owners scuffled with police.

Shoving matches with police broke out along Changan Street, Beijing’s major thoroughfare that fronts the market, when security tried to take down posters protesting the demolition of the popular market. Stall owners accused the Chaoyang district government of colluding with real estate developers to shutter the market and build a new indoor shopping center nearby that will keep the market’s name. “The government and the developers have got together to drive us out,” Sun Xiuzhen, an elderly woman who has leased a stall since its opening more than two decades ago, said, “They are even violating our intellectual property rights by taking the Silk Alley name, the name that we built up over years of hard work. It’s like a lamb seller selling dog meat.” Sun and several other stall owners, dressed in white shirts with slogans written on them, yelled and taunted police in protest at the market closure.

Since 1997, city officials have been trying to demolish Xiushuijie, as it is called in Chinese, due to concerns over fire and safety hazards.

While one of China’s commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been to crack down on intellectual property rights abuses, places like Silk Alley have continued to thrive.

Sun admitted she had made a good living at the market and saw little irony in her accusations that the government and developers were seeking to profit from the ‘theft’ of the market’s name on the new building. “People here have done good business so the government officials get jealous and they try to step in to take their cut. This happens all the time in China,” Li Tangbo, who has worked in the market for nine years, said.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do. But right know I’m not going to move into their building, it’s too expensive,” Tangbo added.