Pay No Attention to the Neighborhood Behind the Curtain

<p>In a last-minute effort to beautify the city before the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics, officials in Beijing have put up walls and screens to hide unsightly neighborhoods from the eyes of visitors. Those behind the walls are not happy.</p>
July 31, 2008, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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"A veil of green plastic netting now covers Ms. Sun's restaurant. Mr. Song's house and several shops that he rents to migrant families were surrounded by a 10-foot-tall brick wall last week, part of a last-minute beautification campaign. The authorities deemed his little block of commerce an eyesore."

"A mysterious notice appeared beside the shops on July 17, typed on white paper and signed by no one. It read, "In keeping with the government's request to rectify the Olympic environment, a wall will need to be built around No. 93 South Tianqiao Road." The next morning, several bricklayers showed up with a police escort."

"Now a wall conceals a little cove of entrepreneurship where several migrant families sell socks, book bags, pants, noodles and shish kebabs cooked in a spicy soup. One family behind the wall sells ice cream, popsicles and cold drinks from a refrigerator on wheels."

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Published on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 in The New York Times
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