For the past six years Wenhua Xiang (文化巷) and several other central Kunming alleyways have filled up each night with vendors selling a wide assortment of goods. Relations with brick and mortar stores whose owners pay sometimes astronomical rents have been at times testy, while the presence of so many peddlers and shoppers has created something of a daily traffic nightmare. The situation appears to have come to an end this past weekend.
On the afternoons of January 17-20, large groups of chengguan (城管) — or city management officers — began unceremoniously clearing unlicensed merchants off of Wenhua Xiang. Similar actions were reportedly carried out on Yuanxi Lu (圆西路) by the zoo, Sanjia Xiang (三家巷) in the city's west and Tangshuang Lu (塘双路) near the Panlong River. Once the roads cleared, 'patrols' remained in place to make certain no one returned.
The chengguan — who it bears noting have looked the other way regarding street vendor activity for years — confiscated carts, display tables and merchandise. All seized property was immediately deposited in garbage trucks and crushed. Stores and restaurants with any signs, refrigerators, chairs or other effects on the sidewalk suffered the same fate.
Once the streets were clear, collections of urban management officers began playing a recorded announcement declaring "Street vendor activity is no longer allowed". Local newspaper Capital Times also published a public notice, which reads in part that the effort is meant to clear space and alleviate "traffic chaos". In the case of Wenhua Xiang, such concerns stem from nearby Yieryi Dajie being converted into a two-way street, presumably in early March.
The three-day clean-up on Wenhua Xiang saw the eviction of 98 now-illegal street stalls and the ticketing of 146 cars for parking violations. In the future, according to the Capital Times report, those parking on the sidewalk or otherwise blocking pedestrian traffic in the area will be fined 150 yuan. Furthermore, they will have three points deducted from their yearly twelve-point driving record.
Many of the shop owners on Wenhua Xiang are approaching the disappearance of the nightly market with cautious optimism. After years of expressing frustration over lost revenues amid skyrocketing rents at community meetings and impromptu police station gatherings, the situation appears to have finally been resolved. Said one business owner who asked not to be identified, "This has happened in the past right before Spring Festival or big government meetings. We'll just have to wait and see if it's permanent."
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