Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trouble in the Wu?

After a long absence, the last month or so has seen me passing through the Wudaokou district of Beijing two or three times a week.

I am enjoying becoming reacquainted with the 'hood and its student-friendly cheap eats and cheap drinks options.

But last week, I found myself vexed and alarmed; my favourite snack stall (the kebab guy by the south entrance to the station) was closed. All the snack stalls around Wudaokou station were closed!

Was this just a temporary, token crackdown by the authorities on 'unlicensed' food vendors - a shakedown for the quarterly round of bribes, or an ephemeral response to an unfortunate food poisoning outbreak? Or is it part of the ongoing paranoia of our city and national government - street food vendors being added to artists and rock musicians and open-air concerts/parties on the blacklist of the 'wantonly independent' (or 'dangerously influential because they give pleasure'??) forces that must be outlawed to preserve the 'harmony' of Chinese society (="preserve the Chinese Communist Party's scrabbling grip on power and wealth")??

I do hope it's the former, not the latter - but in this crazy country, you never can tell.

A couple of the snack stalls nearest to the station were back in business today - but a number of others remain dark. And the Wudaokou beer garden - which moved a few years ago from the area in front of the cineplex on the north side of Chengfu Lu to the south-west corner of the station, opposite the Huaqing Jiayuan complex - has still failed to reappear, two or three weeks after it usually blossoms into life as the hub of the neighbourhood's summer nightlife. Very sad.

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