Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou are targeting restaurants owned by the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group ahead of the city’s hosting of the G20 summit in early September.
As rights activists call on the leaders of the G20 nations not to ignore China's human rights violations during the Sept. 4-5 summit, local residents said Uyghur-run businesses are being singled out for special security checks and closure by police.
“There is a noodle place run by people from Xinjiang near my home, and suddenly four busloads of police parked outside and got out,” a Hangzhou resident surnamed Sun told RFA on Tuesday.
“I thought they were going to arrest people. They were even carrying guns,” she said.
Neighbors later told her the police were under orders to shutter the restaurant for the duration of the G20 summit, she said.
“They brought the guns because they were afraid the Uyghurs would be unwilling to leave,” Sun said. “Then they searched the whole place to make sure there was nobody left inside … and shuttered it and sealed the doors with paper strips.”
“So now they are temporarily closed,” she said.
Calls to a number of Uyghur-run restaurants in the city rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.
In recent weeks, Hangzhou city authorities have shut down businesses and industrial facilities across the scenic city, ordered increased security checks on citizens, and packed large numbers of its citizens off on vacation in a bid to "maintain stability," residents said.
Two mobile divisions of the People’s Armed Police have been stationed in the city on standby, including armored vehicles, which are parked in the city center and near the stadium, according to posts on social media.
For many, the security measures are a step too far, with checkpoints on all major routes into the city causing long delays for drivers.
One resident tweeted a photo on Tuesday showing an LED display by a major highway banning “all odd and even license plate numbers” from entering Hangzhou.
Meanwhile, police detained a woman after she refused to take a sip of a bottle of water she was carrying, when requested by the driver, local residents said.
Photos supplied by bystanders showed two police officers frog-marching a woman away from the bus.
“The police checks are very stringent,” Sun said. “Every vehicle and every person entering Hangzhou has to be searched, along with all of their baggage. The searches are very thorough.”
“I think they’re really overdoing it this time,” she said. “During the two days of the summit, all businesses near the venue will be forced to close and everyone will have two days off work.”
Sun said she has been given eight days’ leave.
“The only thing left to do is to leave town and take a vacation,” she said. “The city’s empty.”
She said Hangzhou residents have been offered free entry to nearby tourist attractions, including Huang Shan, and to tourist destinations in the southwestern region of Guangxi, in a bid to get them to leave the city.
Crackdown 'worst in decades'
The G20 summit comes amid what activists are saying is the worst crackdown on rights activists in decades, and campaigners want global leaders to hold the ruling Chinese Communist Party to account.
Rights groups are citing the persecution of civil society groups and the increased targeting of dissidents, religious believers, and ethnic minorities in the name of “stability maintenance” under President Xi Jinping.
Hangzhou-based dissidents, including rights activist Zou Wei, have already been taken out of town on enforced “vacations,” activists told RFA.
And rights activist Jiang Yalin, who has campaigned on behalf of families hit by the melamine-tainted infant milk powder scandal, said she has also had a visit from the local “stability maintenance” office asking about her plans.
“Some people from the Jinhua [district] stability maintenance office came by to look for me a couple of days ago, my husband told me,” she said. “They wanted to know where I would be during the G20 in Hangzhou."
Jiang said she had already left town, however.
"My husband told me to take our kid outside the the city to get away from the summer heat,” she said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.