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The Death of Coco's

November 27, 2012   

I might have mentioned Ximen in past journal entries - literally translated, its Minzu University's "West Gate." When people use "Ximen," it is in reference to Ximen’s street, which is lined with shops, restaurants, and Coco's - an extremely popular Taiwanese brand of bubble milk tea. ACC and Chinese students alike are all in love with it. Due to no meal plan and a sometimes overwhelmingly crowded school cafeteria, ACC students often frequent Ximen.

After class today, I was walking towards Ximen to get carry-out when I saw one of my friends on the street walking my way. I planned to give a quick hello and go on when I realized that she was yelling about something.

"Coco's has been bulldozed!! It's all gone!"

I have seen construction in China countless times. Sometimes the whole country seems to be a construction site - everything is in a state of constant change, and I often walk by and see workers repaving roads, building new apartments or repainting fences. But rarely do I see buildings torn down.

When I turned the corner, I was met with a complete wreck. The storefronts that were attached to buildings remained intact, but the smaller stores, ones that had been part of a shoddy structure standing in between the buildings, were being destroyed. There were a fair number of police milling about uselessly and a team of construction men in uniform bright yellow hats working a bulldozer. They seemed to be moving down the line of stores one by one.

I tried to ask some passers-by around me what was going on, but the most I could learn was that the bulldozed stores had been built there illegally. I asked one man what the government planned to do with the property, and he brushed off the question rather nervously, saying he didn't know what the government did.

I ran into my teacher on my way back. From what she had heard, the decision to tear down the stores had been made eight years ago. But it wasn't clear whether these shopkeepers had been made aware that demolition day was today. Just yesterday they were open for business, and no one showed signs of packing up or leaving. It is also unclear whether they received any sort of compensation, but I am guessing that they didn't, since their businesses were there illegally in the first place. As for the responsibility of the land-owners, well, no one could tell me that either.

I saw one of my favorite Muslim Huizu restaurants torn down. I am scared to go back, because I worry that my Sichuan noodle place got torn down as well, and I was friendly with the owner. Do these shop owners have enough money to start again somewhere else? Or is their entire livelihood just gone, demolished by a bulldozer?