Illegal buildings demolished in revamp of old area in Beijing
The authorities in Beijing have knocked down hundreds of illegal structures and buildings in one of the oldest areas of the capital as part of a renovation project, according to a newspaper report.
The demolitions are taking place in Shichahai, an area of the city full of courtyard houses that dates back to the Jin dynasty (1115-1234), The Beijing News reported.
The area is known for its bars and restaurants and the authorities say the work is to help improve the living conditions of local people and halt over commercialisation, although some critics say it is also driving out migrant workers and their businesses from inner city areas.
Over 4,000 square metres of illegal structures, mostly built by the owners of restaurants and bars in courtyards houses, have been torn down since the work began earlier this year, according to the report.
The authorities have also taken down over 350 oversized advertising boards. Bars and restaurants operating illegally in the streets have been shut down.
The Shichahai area includes three lakes near the centre of Beijing - Beihai, Qianhai and Houhai.
Its bars and restaurants are popular among tourists and local residents, with an estimated 40 million trips made to the area each year, according to the local authority.
But there are concerns about the excessive commercial exploitation of the area as business owners rapidly expand their premises, the report said.
One proposal is to turn one street into a museum themed avenue, with videos promoting traditional Chinese culture and the history of the neighourhood playing on the walls of bars and restaurants, Duan Yunsong, the chairman of the Shichahai Commerce Association, was quoted as saying.