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Holiday for Almost All

Souvenir Hawkers Driven out of Tian’anmen Square

By Vict, October 4, 2013

The National Day Holiday of China has turned the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing into a vast ocean that flooded by flows of domestic tourists from all over the nation. Like every year before, huge amount of excited tourists take the chance of the long vacation to visit this symbol of the political center of the whole country and place where PRC’s establishment got announced 64 years ago – many of whom with small national flags in hands and red tags on faces.

Tourists flooding Tian’anmen Square

However, the holiday which means celebrating the birth of the nation seems not so celebratable for hawkers who try to sell souvenirs to tourists in Tian’anmen Square and, more importantly, try to avoid getting caught by plainclothes cops.

“I am selling small flags here to earn some dinner money,” said Zhou Ling, a middle aged woman, “It’s easy because a lot of tourists want to buy them, it’s hard because the plainclothes cops would take away all our souvenirs if they see us selling here.”

The cops patrolling around the square every half-hour in duty of maintaining order and cleanness of the place wear plain clothes and seem like common tourists at the first sight. But they will force souvenir hawkers to hand over all commodities if they captured one, claiming that selling without a license and permission violates the city regulation and that the hawkers are damaging the scape of the famous spot.

Hawker selling souvenirs


Hawker selling souvenirs

“I have been doing this since I got laid-off several years ago,” said Yu Xiaotian, another souvenir hawker, “the income is not stable, sometimes you can earn 1000 yuan per day, but if you are not lucky and get locked by them, you end up with nothing.”

Sometimes the plainclothes cops will take away not only all souvenirs but also the hawkers and lock them in a small fenced area at the foot of Tian’anmen gate tower, behind a row of ambulances, police cars and patrol wagons. According to Yu, hawkers locked have to wait to be released by the end of the day when all plainclothes cops are off shift.

Zhou said she has been locked once, “It was terrible, we had no shelter under the loud sun and there wasn’t any supply for food or water. People who are really starving or thirsty have no choice but ask their friends to bring them some.”

Hawker cornered by plainclothes vigilantes

Shi, a hawker who refused to tell his given name claimed that he witnessed a young hawker being beaten by the plainclothes cops. He said the young man was around 20, and tried to escape from the fence after getting locked the day before. The plainclothes cops caught him and dragged him into a room, they closed the door but people outside could hear the sound clearly, and they saw young man came out weak and stumbling with bruises on his face and arms. “I was right there in the fence,” said Shi, “soon we all knew it.”

Zhou nodded, “I saw the boy went home yesterday, and he didn’t show up today.” She said that the police in uniforms never take actions, they only issue warnings, “But the plainclothes ones, they are the ones who get violent.”

Hawkers locked behind fences

Yu agreed that plainclothes cops are nightmare to hawkers but she has her own way out. Her husband managed to get in touch with a headman of one cop team through several people in-between, and treated him to a dinner, and the plainclothes cops never caught them afterwards. The dinner cost them 3000 RMB, which she considered really expansive but still worthwhile. “The headman said nothing to his men, but he spared us on one patrol, and everyone in his team knew that we shall not be touched.” Said Yu, “But that’s only one team among the many, you can never feed them all.”

Plainclothes Vigilante

Clock struck 11 am, a team of four men wearing sunglasses, caps and common jackets appeared outside a patrol wagon which parked aside the square, each with an interphone set from collar to one ear.

Hawkers started to pack up and flee from the holiday square drowned in flowers, red flags and rapturous tourists.



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