While not backed by any formal policy, Li’s comments spurred people nationwide to set up street stalls, including on the back of bikes and even on pavements.
But just as they took to the streets after Li’s comments, they were shooed out of central hotspots in Beijing as authorities vowed to step up scrutiny.
Wang Zhiping, a 72-year-old former street cleaner originally from central Henan province, took up street selling after hearing Li’s words of encouragement.
“I only started last week, but business hasn’t been very good. I have no other source of income and my health is too poor to continue cleaning,” said Wang, who sells socks in a Beijing underpass.
“Li Keqiang is a senior Communist Party member. Why are the chengguan going against what the Communist Party is supporting?”
People’s Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, called for stricter oversight of street traders, while the state-run Beijing Daily claimed that the stalls were backward and “not suited” to the city.
“I only started selling grilled pancakes this week but chengguan have chased me off four times already,” said a middle-aged woman, who refused to give her name, running a mobile food stall in the capital’s Chaoyang district.