Puppy paradise lost?
Tongzhou may be rolling over as the canine capital of China
Beijing has to remove some functions to its nearby cities and towns to realize better development.
Lian Yuming, president of the Beijing International City Development Research Institute
Under the summer sun, behind a sign on which the words have peeled off, only a few shops are still open. Inside, several dogs lie lazily, waiting to be fed.
The other shops are either abandoned, or their owners only available through the telephone numbers on notices stuck to the doors.
Further inside, wild grass is reclaiming the land where there used to be a market for pet supplies.
This is what used to be North China’s largest pet dog market looks like now.
Officially named Dongfang-xin Pet Paradise, but more commonly called Liyuan Dog Market because of its location, the market is located in Beijing’s southeast Tongzhou district.
Now, only a dozen or so shops are still open at the dog market, as it is officially closed — the site is to be redeveloped as part of the government’s grand plan to transform the district into an administrative sub-center and cultural district.
“Sometimes we can hardly sell one dog for a whole day,” said Guo Jishi, co-owner of one of the shops still open in the market, told China Daily. “But it’s low season anyway in the summer because it’s so hot.”
He said the owner of the market has been compensated for the proposed move and many of the shop owners actually moved out last summer, but some of the them got called back by the owner of the market as he claimed he hadn’t received all the compensation he was promised.
“At least I’ll stay here for this month as the rent has been collected,” said Guo. “If they collect the rent next month then I’ll keep on going, but we’ll see what happens.”
However, the remaining shop owners are fully aware that it’s just a matter of time before they have to say goodbye to the place.
“I have been working and living here for more than 10 years since my daughter married and moved to this area,” said a dog shop owner surnamed Li. “But I have my own dog farm and will continue the business when we move to another place.”
Good times, bad times
The market emerged in the 1980s and grew in size as the increasing number of customers attracted a growing number of sellers. Eventually at the beginning of this century the municipal government made it legal. This led to themarket’s heyday when it was home to hundreds of shops and stalls selling all kinds of dogs.
Now it is finally closing for good, as the municipal government plans to transform the site into a cultural tourist attraction that “surpasses Tokyo Disneyland and Seoul Lotto World”.
From the map on the district’s official website, the dog market lies about 2 kilometers from a planned Universal Studio theme park, which is expected to open in the area in 2019. An official from the township’s urban planning division confirmed that the market is “inside the radius that is to be demolished to make way for the theme park”.
However, even before the government’s redevelopment plan, the dog market had already put its best days behind it, as it started to lose customers after it developed a bad reputation for unscrupulous vendors knowingly selling sick animals or doctoring dogs to make them resemble more valuable breeds.
“I was ashamed of saying that I was a merchant there during that time,” said an owner surnamed Yang during an interview with Beijing Morning Post last November.
Pressure release plan
The redevelopment of the dog market to make way for the theme park is just part of Beijing’s plan to redevelop Tongzhou district, which is slated to become a subsidiary administrative center of Beijing with the relocation of noncore administrative functions from the city center.
In addition to the dog market, the clothes wholesale market near Beijing Zoo and some municipality-affiliated colleges are to be demolished to make way for the new administrative buildings.
Lian Yuming, president of the Beijing International City Development Research Institute, explained that the redevelopment of the area would help reduce the pressures on the city center.
“Beijing has to remove some functions from the center to realize better development,” he said.
The Beijing municipal government offices and affiliated institutions are to be shifted gradually to Tongzhou to make the city’s central area less crowded and Tongzhou will become a subsidiary administrative center for the capital and promote the regional integration of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.
It’s a challenging task since the project will involve both the government, market and the citizens.
“During the process, we need to be patient. However, it can’t wait,” Lian said.
Liyuan Dog Market, once the largest pet dog market in North China, is now officially closed as the site is to be redeveloped.
A buyer checks out some pooches in Liyuan Dog Market in August.
Guo Jishi is the co-owner of one of the shops in Liyuan dog market.