As construction nears the end for line 4 of the Nanjing metro system, shopkeepers hurt by the construction have increased the visibility of their protests.
During the third week of October, owners of restaurants and businesses along Caochang Men Avenue, where the terminal station is being constructed, put up banners with messages demanding the government step in to help them.
“Uncle Xi, save us,” one said. “For ‘the people [everyone]’, also look after ‘the little people [or little establishments/small businesses]” (习大大救救我们，为了“大家”也要顾“小家”）. They don’t oppose the subway construction, they just want to be compensated for loss to their businesses, they say.
Fences have been put up around much of the street, obstructing shop signs and making it harder to walk along the sidewalk in one section which is lined with small noodle and local cuisine restaurants started by people from across the country, as well as dry cleaning and convenience stores. Shop owners report that the fences have caused crowding and obstructed parking spaces. Some say they have suffered losses of up to 50 percent of revenue since the fences went up.
“The subway construction has affected our business, but we still have to pay rent,” Li Shuangshuang, who owns and operates a Hunan restaurant, said. “We just want some compensation.”
Between 20 and 30 business owners have banded together and gone to the government offices in the past two months to request some of their rent be covered. According to them, the government hasn’t responded definitely and has directed them to the subway company, which also hasn’t responded to their satisfaction.
Subway Development Has Faced Challenges
Line 4 is just one of more than 20 new subway lines that have been planned in Nanjing for the next decade. With two subway lines already opened in 2005 and 2010 respectively, Nanjing is now expanding quickly. Four new lines opened in 2014 and 2015, connecting the city to the airport and to the northwest side of the Yangtze River. Line 4 has been one of the toughest lines to build, because it runs through historic Gulou district, which features Republican-era buildings and Purple Mountain (Zijin Shan), which features ancient relics and mountainous terrain.
Back during the early planning and preparation stages in 2011, there were protests against the uprooting of historic wutong trees, which line the streets of much of the old section of the city nearby Gulou. Six hundred trees were reportedly to be moved in order to make way for subway line 3 station entrances, after plans for changed to protect 900 more trees that would have been cut down. The government says most would be replanted.
People Online: Construction Fence Enclosures Expanded
Many owners along Caochang Men Avenue noted that the extent of the construction fence enclosures have often been expanded as construction continues. One unfortunate operator of a noodle restaurant saw the fence expanded to right next to his establishment one week after opening it.
According to an article by People Online in October 2014, the online property of propaganda outlet People’s Daily, the geological conditions around Longjiang Station are complex, requiring extra safety.
Because Longjiang Station’s geological conditions are complex, geological disturbances could have a little bit of impact on surrounding buildings. In order to ensure the safe construction of this deep enclosure pit, the space of the enclosure at Longjiang Station needs to be expanded. “We’ve already done a security measure, but some section of the enclosure could influence operations at the surrounding businesses,” Li Hailong stated.
An article published in Xinhua, the government news bureau, in November 2014 noted that the walking space between the shop and enclosure had been shrunk from 7 meters to 3.5 meters in one place.
Some businesses have even been knocked down completely, due to structural issues nearby the construction, and the residents were offered payments. Huang Shuiqing, operator of a dry cleaner, pointed to the delay of the subway line, which is now expected to open in early 2017.
Signs Come Down
After being displayed for about a week, some business owners started taking the signs down. They didn’t say why they were doing it. In one week, the signs had reportedly attracted some Chinese journalists who didn’t write about it and one foreign writer who published this article here.