Booking a hotel room for the Asian Games? Local police will be watching you

Facial recognition cameras are installed in guest room doors, a notice warns guests.
By Gu Ting for RFA Mandarin
2023.07.14
Booking a hotel room for the Asian Games? Local police will be watching you Visitors tour an exhibition about the upcoming Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, June 29, 2023.
Ng Han Guan/AP

Chinese authorities in the eastern city of Hangzhou have installed facial recognition cameras in the spyholes of hotels as part of a slew of tight security measures ahead of the 19th Asian Games in September.

"The door of each room in the hotel is equipped with a public security system networked cat's eye [camera]," according to a notice displayed in a hotel lobby that was shared on Twitter.

The notice said that the number of occupants in the room must be the same as the number registered with their real name. Any visitors entering the room must also be registered with their real name. "If not, a warning will be issued,” it said.

"After a warning is issued, the personal details of the person who booked the room will be transmitted to the local police station," the notice reads.

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The Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium [back] and Tennis Center, which will host the Asian Games, are seen in Hangzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on June 29, 2023. Credit: Greg Baker/AFP

The notice also warns guests not to try covering up the peephole.

“Immediate measures will be taken in the event of any abnormal activity," it says.

The Hangzhou Asian Games run from Sept. 23 through Oct. 8, while the Asian Paralympic Games run from Oct. 22-28, with real-name registration required to enter all events.

‘Cat’s eye’

An employee who answered the phone at Hangzhou's Jindi Business Hotel said "cat's eye" facial recognition systems have been installed in hotel room spyholes in that hotel, and in hotels across the city.

"That's right, yes, they installed them ahead of the Games, and they are connected to the internet," the staff member said. "It compares you with the ID card used to register, and will only let you in if they match."

Asked if all hotels now have this system installed, she replied: "Yes, that's right, it's the same everywhere."

A member of staff at Hangzhou's Jun Ting Yilian Hotel said the hotel had been notified by police that all guests and visitors must register with their ID cards.

"The police station requires that we have any visitors to guest rooms register with their ID cards," the staff member said. 

"If they don't register and the police station finds out, they will shut us down."

The new high-tech security measures have appeared as local officials called in a July 6 security meeting for "dynamic investigation and management of hidden dangers" ahead of the Asian Games.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a screen during an exhibition about the upcoming Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, June 29, 2023. Credit: Ng Han Guan/AP

"[We must] carefully implement risk prevention and control measures ... and make good use of digital and intelligent management methods," Zhang Zhenfeng, who heads preparations for the portion of the Games being held in the coastal city of Wenzhou, told the meeting.

Zhang also called for planning for "extreme" scenarios and a focus on "key groups," without elaborating, according to a report on the Hangzhou municipal government website.

A netizen surnamed Mao said the measures are overkill as the Games are unlikely to be targeted for attacks or sabotage.

"The fact that they are installing these kinds of cameras just exposes their own fears," Mao said. "It's an overreach of police power."

Jiangsu-based current affairs commentator Zhang Jianping said such security measures aren't normal.

"This sort of thing wouldn't happen in a normal country," Zhang said. "Usually when there is a big meeting or event, the people they go after are petitioners, but if they're targeting everyone now, that's not normal."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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