No more cheap breakfasts? Street food hawkers banned from Beijing's Haidian district

Worries mount that crackdown on Haidian hawkers would leave lower-income families with no cheap breakfast options

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 5:21pm

Street carts selling steaming heaps of buns, tea eggs and fried pancakes have long served the early-morning crowds of Beijing’s working-class Haidian district. But they may soon vanish as the government has decided to ban makeshift vendors.

Citing food safety concerns, the relevant departments in the district issued directives to shut down unlicensed food carts with “illegal construction” and even licensed breakfast stands before August.

Vendors who fail to comply will see their carts or stands forcibly removed by the Municipal Commission of Urban Planning starting next month.

Residents are worried that the working-class would have less options for cheap breakfasts, The Beijing News reported. Some locals proposed that the food carts should be better regulated instead of being closed down entirely.

As an alternative to the carts, however, the government said it would launch a new “Breakfast Project” which includes building new breakfast-oriented restaurant chains, and encouraging government agencies and schools to serve morning fare in their cafeterias.

But residents doubt these measures could effectively replace the street carts and stands, which offer food as cheap as 10 yuan (HK$13) and which are easily accessible.

"Usually [I am] too busy at work and have no time to make breakfast. My family normally go to breakfast stands instead,” a resident was quoted as saying.

Buns and fried pancakes from street hawkers sell below 5 yuan apiece and a typical breakfast with drinks cost around 7 yuan, previous reports have said.

For workers, she says, it is more convenient to grab breakfast while waiting for buses on the way to work.

There are worries that the government’s alternative food establishments would be out of reach for Haidian District’s lower-income families.

Professor Zhu Xufeng, from the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, told The Beijing News: “If [it] wants to ban all the breakfast carts, the government should take the working class into consideration,” he said.

Zhu urged the city to come up with a plan that would satisfy the local demand for street carts’ breakfast offerings without pricing the working class out.