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Urban officer suspended after failing to act against illegal vendors

AN urban management officer in Yangpu District has been suspended after he declined to act against illegal stalls in the Wujiaochang area, saying they were protected, authorities said today.

Media reports, including undercover reports, quoted the officer who was later suspended and also vendors as saying a powerful figure called “Laosi,” literally meaning “Old Four” in Chinese, was protecting the vendors after payoffs of thousands of yuan.

The stalls, which occupied a sidewalk and forced residents to walk on bicycle lane for years, were cleared out this morning by a Yangpu urban management law enforcement team.

A resident told Shanghai Television Station that he complained to several government departments over the issue, but they turned a deaf ear. The whistleblower said many illegal stalls had been in the area for five to six years.

A couple who set up a 10-square-meter fried rice stall near the back door of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics on Wuchuan Road told undercover reporters that they paid more than 6,000 yuan (US$967) to a person called “Laosi” as “protection fees.” They said “Laosi” would ensure that they could do business safely in the place after paying.

Another street vendor near Guonian Road and Zhengsu Road whose food stall occupied the sidewalk said he paid 8,000 yuan to “Laosi.” He said urban management and law enforcement officials would not drive vendors away because of “Laosi.” An urban management and law enforcement vehicle stopped nearby, but drove away soon, as shown on the news report.

A man who identified himself as “Laosi” told undercover reporters that the street vendors did not need any licenses, and he could ensure their safety only if they paid the fees.

“You can tell authorities my name if they come to you for trouble, and I can help you get out of trouble,” he told undercover reporters in telephone interview.

In another undercover interview, Shen Wei, the official with the Wujiaochang neighborhood committee urban management law enforcement team who was later suspended, told reporters that they had drawn a lot of complaints over the illegal stalls, and admitted that they were illegal. But he said he would not crack down on the vendors.

“He (Laosi) has an underground protective umbrella, and I would not offend him because I don’t have the capability. Otherwise, I would get into trouble, and you could by no means track him down,” Shen said.

The investigation is still underway.


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