China Orders Businesses Closed, Sends Residents on 'Vacation' Ahead of G20 Summit

china-lou-jiwei-g20-meeting-apr15-2016.jpg China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei arrives for a press conference at an earlier meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington, April 15, 2016.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou are pulling out all the stops ahead of the city's hosting of the G20 summit in early September, shutting down business and industry across the city, issuing baffling English phrasebooks, and sending its citizens off on vacation.

Day-rental hotel rooms, internet cafes, public meeting venues, and other businesses have also been ordered by municipal authorities to close from late August to Sept. 10, according to a document detailing security protocols seen by RFA's Mandarin Service.

Street food-stalls and other vendors will be banned from operating for a full month from Aug. 10, while property-related businesses like realtors and remodeling firms will be similarly shut down.

Security measures in office buildings and residential compounds will be tightened, while public video and display screens on tall buildings will be shut off from Aug. 26 to Sept. 10, the notice says.

And in a bid to render the skies a clear "G20 blue" in the manner of Beijing's "APEC blue," air-polluting factories within a 150 km radius of Hangzhou have been ordered to close, sparking concerns among Taiwan-invested electronics factories, the Digitimes website reported.

It said the government is also considering extending the ban to a 300 k.m. radius, if the pollution doesn't clear.

Forced 'vacations'

Rights activists in the city, home to prominent activists in the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), are being taken on forced "vacations" by state security police, they said.

"A lot of rights activists are being detained, one by one, I don't know where," Hangzhou activist Zou Wei told RFA. "There is no news of them. They have been taken on vacation."

"Others have been informed that they must leave town at the start of August."

He said the authorities are also calling on regular citizens to take vacations of up to 12 days around the time of the summit.

"A lot of employers have given their employees leave during that time, to encourage them to go away," Zou said. "They have packages including entry fee waivers [to attractions]."

Tour companies were also being banned from bringing tour groups into Hangzhou ahead of the summit, he said.

Hangzhou residents will be offered free entry to 55 major tourist attractions in the vicinity, including Huang Shan in neighboring Anhui province, while major state-owned employers are giving their staff the week off, local media reported.

And the stronger security measures are already visible on the city's streets, Zou said.

"There are security checkpoints set up on all roads leading into the city," he said. "I was detained for five hours at one of them because it wouldn't let me through when it read my card."

"They didn't let me go until officers from my local police station had come to take a statement."

Creating panic

Fellow Hangzhou resident Xu Guang said it is unclear why the authorities are taking such drastic measures.

"I can't figure it out, whether this is on orders from higher up, or whether it's the local government's idea," Xu said. "I don't think it's really necessary. They are creating panic."

"Security wasn't even this tight for the Beijing Olympics," he said, adding: "But there is always the possibility that they heard somebody was planning something."

Xu said police are stopping random passersby and asking to see their ID.

"The police stopped me and checked my ID when I was driving into my own residential compound, where I own a home," he said.

Meanwhile, local officials have issued an English "phrasebook" which approximates certain English phrases using Chinese characters, the Cankao Xiaoxi news website reported.

"On Weibo, Chinese netizens couldn't help but poke fun at the guidebook with some Chinese-style English of their own," the Shanghaiist blog reported, adding that some said the phrases sound more like the language of aliens than English.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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