Hundreds of furious small business owners in China’s eastern Jiangsu province protested in front of a government building on Monday over their forced eviction from a local commercial center, government and business officials said.
The protesters were among 8,000 business owners ordered to vacate “Yongxing Mall” in Gangzhai district’s downtown Nantong, a bustling city on the bank of the Yangtze River, even before the expiry of their rental leases, according to some owners.
They charged that the government blocked traffic to the mall, which comprised about 1,200 business outlets, and hired gangsters to harass or intimidate the business enterprises. Banners
On Monday morning, the owners gathered before the Gangzhai district office and unfurled banners with the words, “Don’t block traffic to the mall,” and “We want to survive.”
When government officials ignored their petition over the eviction, the angry protesters damaged the front gate of the building and moved to another city government office to air their grievances.
The protest paralyzed traffic and many police personnel and vehicles were dispatched to the scene. But there were no clashes.
A police officer confirmed the protest over the phone on Monday but rejected claims that hundreds protested.
“No, [the protest did not involved] several hundreds,” he said.Large crowd
Pictures taken at the scene and posted online showed a large crowd outside the Gangzhai district office.
Phone call to the Nantong city government was answered by an employee who declined to provide details and expressed displeasure over the media coverage.
“It seems you know even more than I do. Does anything need the involvement of the media?”
The mall, built in 1994, is to make way for a new development project for which details were not immediately available.Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.