When the municipal authorities announced plans for this year’s construction work, they pledged that it would make the city greener, remove safety hazards and, above all, “improve the people’s sense of achievement.”
And some people interviewed along the affected streets said it had.
One reconstruction effort that drew attention removed a cluster of shops, restaurants and bars along several side streets in the Sanlitun neighborhood. Because of its notoriety as an area for carousing and prostitution, it was known, collectively, as “Dirty Bar Street.” Many cheered its demise on social media when the bulldozers arrived in April.
The work did more than disrupt the night life, though — it removed part or all of 33 shops. The prospects for the owners appear gloomy.
Zhang Lifan, a prominent historian who grew up in the city, said that the disruption of so many small business would change the character of the city, upending lives of migrants and also their customers. He said the government’s efforts were “too simplistic and brutal.”
“I think the move failed to take into account the needs of a lot of people,” he said. “Many of those owners set up their businesses in a legal manner and had invested a lot of money, but now everything they’ve worked for is gone.”