yanqing_lanzhou_lamian_police

"They broke open the door at 5AM. They made us leave. All our stuff is still in there. The clothes I'm wearing are the only ones I have now. We have to stay out on the street until it's resolved - we don't have any other choice."

The corner where the noodle shop used to be is a strange intersection of space. Three districts converge here - Xuhui, Huangpu, Jing'an. Go west and you hit a residential cluster; go south and you stumble into a bar street for foreigners. You can see it in the crowd: middle-aged women with curlers in their hair, old men in their PJs, young, tipsy, 20-somethings, a foreigner in a polo and flip flops.

"There's no need for all this police," says a bystander. "It's like crushing an ant. It's unnecessary. We can sit down together and talk about it, right?" He pulls out a cigarette, inhaling deeply from the gold filter. "You bring all of those police officers over here and us common people, well, we feel it's unjust."

This is the case, cut and dried: Mr. Han and his family signed a 3 year sublease for their noodle shop. The rental agreement was supposed to end on December 30, 2018, but the original contract ended this year. The sublessor had lied about the terms, taking Mr. Han's deposit and rent when he fled. Total loss: 550,000 RMB (~$85K). On April 27th, the real estate company sent police officers to take back their property.

"Some people think we did this on purpose but that's not true. I may be an ethnic minority but we're all humans, right?" Mr. Han paces the street wearing his taqiyah, a white skullcap worn by Uyghur men and other Muslim ethnic minorities in China. "Our Chinese isn't very good, you know," he says. "We can't read and write very well, like that contract."

I'm confused about the relationship between the police and the real estate company. I ask a bystander about it, but he shakes his head. "I can't talk about that here," he says. He lowers his voice. "There are plainclothes policemen everywhere, listening."