Authorities in the northeastern province of Shandong are implementing draconian public security measures, including racial profiling of the Uyghur Muslim population, ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in the port city of Qingdao on June 9.
An employee who answered the phone at top hotel in Qingdao said there are restrictions on ethnic minority groups, particular the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, who are no longer allowed to check into the city's hotels.
"Xinjiang ID cards? Are they Han Chinese? If so, no problem. If they're Uyghur, I'd have to run it by the local police station beforehand," the employee said.
Several other employees at hotels in the city confirmed they had been told to check ethnic minority guests with police before allowing them to check in. Chinese ID cards have an entry for the card-holder's ethnicity.
Authorities are also requiring local businesses to replace the Wi-Fi connections they offer to customers with a government-approved router engineered to prevent people from circumventing the complex set of blocks, filters and human censorship known as the Great Firewall.
In Qingdao, the new routers will be supplied by a company called Qingdao Hongji Security Engineering, an employee confirmed to RFA in a recent interview.
"They have to pay a deposit of 100 yuan to us," the employee said.
"It's just for people supplying Wi-Fi to anyone who comes in off the street."
"This is a unified policy on the part of the government: they must all be swapped out," he said. "We are just in charge of installing them. I'm not too sure what happens if you don't change the router and then offer your Wi-Fi to other people."
A Qingdao resident surnamed Li said there is a visibly increased police presence on the streets of the city, as well as in public transport stations.
"There are a lot of security checks. It's very strict," Li said. "But the real reason they need all of this prevention is [the government] themselves."
"They are on tenterhooks because of all the bad things they have done," she said.
Critics under house arrest
Critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party are also being placed under house arrest ahead of the summit, activists said.
Democracy activist Zhao Wei, who lives in Shandong's Liaocheng city, said he was placed under house arrest on May 14, just before he had planned to travel to Beijing, as part of "stability maintenance" measures ahead of the summit, which will be chaired by President Xi Jinping.
"I just thought they had come to have a chat with me, to tell me not to go to Beijing," Zhao told RFA in a recent interview. "But now they have placed a guard of four plainclothes officers and one uniformed cop outside my door."
"I am now being watched 24 hours a day: they're not letting me leave," he said. "They are holding the SCO summit ... in Qingdao in June," he said.
Zhao, who once took part in the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement, said the move could also be linked to the forthcoming 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre that put a bloody end to weeks of protest on Tiananmen Square and across the country.
Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang has also been placed under house arrest at his home, sources said. Recent calls to Sun's cell phone rang unanswered.
Activists, said the authorities have placed restrictions on freedom of movement across the city ahead of the summit, including checking the ID of anyone seeking to visit a residential compound across the city.
A Qingdao-based rights activist surnamed Zhang said the authorities have also clamped down on anyone pursuing complaints against the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and police have been detaining petitioners as a preventive measure ahead of the event.
"There are more restrictions now, and nobody is allowed to petition," Zhang said. "If you do, you'll be detained."
"People are mostly too worried to go out and about," she said.
Social media accounts shut
Zhang said police are also targeting anyone whose social media accounts are frequently shut down, usually because they have posted or retweeted something considered "sensitive" under increasingly draconian controls on public speech.
"If your accounts get shut down a lot, then they will be watching you more," she said. "Everything is dominated by the summit and by stability maintenance right now."
Zhang said she knows of several practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, which Beijing has designated an "evil cult," who have been detained in recent days, as well rights activists and petitioners.
Authorities have also stepped up controls on the city's migrant population, she said.
"They are checking very carefully, including hotel registrations ... and you have to even register at bathhouses after 10.00 p.m.," she said. "They are targeting the migrant population ... but they've stopped demolitions and evictions [of migrant workers] ahead of the summit."
A migrant worker from Shandong's Jiaozhou city who was violently evicted from his home along with his family in April said the evictions have temporarily stopped.
"There are more restrictions ahead of the summit in Qingdao," he said.
"Everyone knows that anyone in a vehicle heading in to Qingdao can be pulled over while the cops search the vehicle and the people."
"There is an obvious reason for this, but there is also a hidden agenda," he said. "They are watching people round the clock, setting guards outside your door, and they watch you wherever you go."
President Xi will chair the 18th SCO Summit from June 9-10 in Qingdao, Xinhua reported on Monday.
The regional grouping of China, Russia, India, Pakistan and their neighbors in Central Asia aims for greater cross-border cooperation between its members.
However, the SCO has been accused by rights groups of facilitating each others' human rights abuses, while justifying them as being part of antiterrorism cooperation.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.