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November 1, 2013

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Official refuses to tackle protection boss

AN urban management official has been suspended in Yangpu District for refusing to remove illegal stalls, as they are “protected” by a powerful figure known by a gangster-like nickname.

Media reports said a man known as “Laosi” — “Old Four” in English — was running a protection racket in the Wujiaochang area, collecting thousands of yuan from traders.

Laosi, which is similar to names used by gangsters, has been identified as a man in his 40s, surnamed Guo, from northeast China, said district authorities.

He is being investigated by police, said officials.

Yesterday, two illegal food booths — which for years blocked sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in cycle lanes to get by — were demolished by the Yangpu District urban management and law enforcement team.

One nearby resident told STV that he had complained to the district government departments about the illegal stalls but had been ignored.

He said the food booths had been there for five or six years.

Other stall holders revealed to undercover reporters that they paid protection money.

A couple running a fried rice stall near the back of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics on Wuchuan Road said they paid more than 6,000 yuan (US$967) to Laosi.

They said he ensured that they could do business safely.

Another street vendor, near Guonian Road and Zhengsu Road, said he paid 8,000 yuan to Laosi. He said Laosi would prevent urban management and law enforcement officials from driving vendors away.

The news report showed an urban management and law enforcement vehicle stop nearby, but then drive off without challenging vendors.

Undercover reporters also make contact with a man claiming to be Laosi.

He told them that street vendors did not need licenses, and that he could ensure their safety — for a price.

“You can tell authorities my name if they come to you causing trouble, and I can help you get out of trouble,” he boasted in a telephone interview.

In an undercover interview, Shen Wei, the suspended official with the Wujiaochang neighborhood committee urban management team, told reporters that while there had been numerous complaints over illegal stalls, he would not crack down on these vendors.

“He (Laosi) has an underground network protecting him and I wouldn’t want to offend him. Because if I did, I would get into a lot of trouble,” Shen said.

The two temporary stalls torn down yesterday morning were formerly a newspaper kiosk and a milk booth owned by Laosi and his sister, authorities said.

They rented them to vendors, changing the business usage without permission.

The city’s urban management and law enforcement authorities said they would improve education and management of officials, while Yangpu District said it would conduct a thorough check on illegal businesses.



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