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It took Zhang Zhimin a decade to cultivate a loyal clientele at his imported shoe shop facing one of central Beijing's busiest streets. Yet it took authorities no time at all to make his life's work disappear behind a wall of bricks.Just two days after receiving a government notice, men arrived with cheap cement and wheelbarrows of clay blocks to seal off Zhang's store door and windows, despite his protests and possession of an official business operating license.It has become a familiar sight in China's capital – doors and windows of businesses operating in areas zoned as residences are being plugged with bricks, most notably in the city's charming and bustling alleyways known as hutongs.Across Beijing's ancient city center, authorities have also torn down or bricked up residences that they say were illegally built.The structures, often self-built, housed migrants running the barbershops, dry cleaners and restaurants that brought a vibrant, cacophonous life to the hutongs.
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