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Suicide attempt follows Wuxi's kiosk closures

A GROCERY kiosk owner in Wuxi tried to commit suicide after her booth was demolished in a local government crackdown on street stalls.

Zhu Xiafang swallowed dozens of sleeping pills at about 1:40am on Monday but was discovered by her husband and survived after eight hours of emergency treatment.

Her case and the larger issue of the kiosk crackdown have drawn widespread criticism from residents of the Jiangsu Province city who believe local officials have acted without concern for the rights of small merchants.

The woman's spouse, Hua Mingyi, told the Shanghai Morning Post that he and his wife had run an approved kiosk in Wuxi's Chongan District selling ice cream, bottled water and telephone cards for more than five years. It was the family's only income source as their son and daughter were unemployed.

They paid the Chongan urban management authority 35,000 yuan annually to operate the business. But the kiosk was demolished by the agency's staff on February 26 without warning. Over the next two days they asked for an explanation from local authorities but received no answers.

An official in the publicity department of the Communist Party's Wuxi committee told the newspaper that hospital records showed Zhu's suicide attempt was related to arguments with her husband.

Hua denied that account. Instead, he produced a letter written by his wife before she took the pills saying she could not survive because authorities had destroyed the kiosk. She also wrote that she was so sorry for her husband, daughter and son but that she had no choice.

Zhu said in the letter that she worked hard to keep the business and never considered breaking the law. She had even been named a model shopkeeper several times by the local government, according to the letter.

Public backlash

The crackdown, in advance of the World Buddhism Forum to be held Wuxi on March 28, has sparked concern among local residents and media nationwide.

Wuxi residents have urged the authorities to obey administrative law and notify people before licenses are revoked or businesses shut down and to hold public hearings.

Despite Hua's version of events and statements from other kiosk owners, Wuxi's urban management bureau claimed that the street stalls had been demolished voluntarily by their operators.

Most of the facilities were shabby, and some of their owners ran their businesses illegally by expanding or sub-leasing without authority, according to the bureau.


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