Residents of China’s historic city of Hangzhou are glad their hometown is getting attention on the world’s stage as it plays host to the Group of 20 Nations (G-20) leaders’ summit this weekend. They are also looking forward to the meeting's quick conclusion and a return to normalcy after months of preparations and extra tight security measures.
Hangzhou has become a city with a dizzying array of security measures, including the deployment of tens of thousands of police as well as young and old red armbanded street patrol volunteers.
The shuttering of businesses and the prodded exodus of most of the city’s nine million residents is not surprising. Chinese society is tightly controlled and the event is hugely important for Beijing.
But that doesn’t mean people are not complaining. Online, pictures of the ubiquitous security measures have been a constant topic for many to vent about.
“There are pluses and minuses. We’re proud the meeting is being held in Hangzhou, but it’s also come with inconveniences. Some measures are too harsh, and even if there is some plot you may not uncover it,” said Wang, an IT worker.
Adam Levin owns three steak and burger restaurants in Hangzhou. Two of his stores are not open because of the meetings. And while the past six months have been chaotic, he says he understands the pressure security officials are under.
“It [China] wants to put on the best show with the least amount of trouble, and recent world events, I think, have added to the anxiety of the government. The terrorist attacks in Europe, the lone wolf attacks in America have added to their trepidations,” said Levin.
Many have left town and the government has given residents a seven-day paid holiday. How they will be compensated is not as clear, residents say. Li, a Hangzhou resident, said the city is now only a shell of its former self.
“Many of the city’s scenic spots, the places you pass by everyday are now completely empty. And we jokingly say to one another that this is the first time that Hangzhou residents (who love their city) are willing to get out of town,” said Li.
Those who are still here have little choice but to stay at home, as most shops are closed. Security guards have been heard complaining that all they have to eat is instant noodles.
Still, while many hope Hangzhou’s hosting of the G-20 will raise the city’s profile beyond that of tourist destination, the tight security may have robbed the historic capital of a chance to highlight one of its biggest assets: it’s people.