“I Heard Hangzhou Closed for the G20, So I Tried to Go”

“I Heard Hangzhou Closed for the G20, So I Tried to Go”

In the lead-up to the G20 summit in Hangzhou, held in the city September 4-5, security was tight as authorities took measures to prevent any possible upsets. After hearing of just how tight security was going to be over the duration of the summit in Hangzhou, one Shanghai-based WeChat user, Chen Xiaohua (陈小花),  decided to travel to the scenic city to investigate. Her humorous article circulated widely on WeChat before being censored. CDT has translated the original post in full:

Yesterday afternoon at around lunch time, my husband said to me in a very serious manner: “Due to the G20, Hangzhou has already imposed emergency measures, not allowing people to casually enter, and has also already closed all roadside shops. All of Hangzhou is a stage, and the pedestrians on the road are all soldiers playing roles, all very handsome.”

Late at night lying in bed, I  tossed and turned restlessly as I thought about his words, my heart unable to settle.

I decided to buy a train ticket from Shanghai to Hangzhou first thing the next morning to have a look—I can’t miss such a wonderful historical event, with Hangzhou on the world stage.

So this morning, determined to investigate, I bought a high-speed train ticket from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station  to Hangzhou East Railway Station. I wanted to find out three main things on this trip:

  1. In the end, is Hangzhou really prohibiting people from entering?
  2. Are all the streetside shops really closed?
  3. Are all the pedestrians on the street really soldiers acting?

I got dressed, grabbed my ID, and before I left headed downstairs to see my baby.

I said to the nanny: “I’m going to Hangzhou, you stay here and keep watch over the baby.”  She immediately responded with her universal phrase “ah,” and a stupid look on her face. It seems only my little son can understand me—his expression seemed to say, my mom is a funny one.

(Don’t ask me how a one-year-old is so big, or how he can already ride a scooter. This is my first time raising a child, so I also don’t know if this is normal or not.)


I first went to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. Everything seemed normal, and there was even indication that Shanghai’s sky was a bright G20 shade of blue.


I went through the security check at the station’s main entrance, and now they’ve added a “Secondary Security Check.” They had two entrances, one for “Northbound Trains” and another for “Southbound Trains.” I wasn’t heading to Harbin, nor to Hainan, so I was a bit confused whether Hangzhou was to my north or south in the end.


Since those heading to “Northbound Trains” at the secondary checkpoint could go through a fast track channel, and the “Southbound Trains” had to go through real-name verification, I chose the more complex option. In the end facts proved me right.


The high-speed rail journey was smooth and unhindered; half an hour later and I arrived at Hangzhou East.


After exiting the station I was very excited, watching the bustling scene with a fearless attitude. I was really looking forward to having police stop me and send me back to Shanghai—but in the end they didn’t, everything was okay. However, just after the exit there was an additional security check. Shit, this was the first time I’d ever seen security at an exit.


“Please pass through security while exiting the station”

G20 Summit volunteers were at the station, the one holding the card on the right seemed very excited.


With a nervous mood I walked into the subway station and prepared to board a car to the famous West Lake. As soon as we arrived at the station and I saw the scene, I admit, I was a bit uneasy.


Since my husband had told me that Hangzhou city residents were all being played by soldiers, I was very cautiously observing my fellow passengers while on the subway. Look at this couple, very true-to-life in their performance.


Exiting the subway, I rushed towards West Like in high spirits. I ran into a mysterious van with white license plates. A soldier uncle came down from the van, and engaged in a cordial handshake with another important looking person.


I kept walking, and soon arrived at the entrance to West Lake—my excited mood was suddenly halted.


I’m so naive, I had prepared to wait in line at the gate and rush in when there weren’t many people. Then as I went around to the side I saw another entry with this sign.


“From midnight Sept 1-Sept 6, West Lake Scenic Area will be closed to outside visitors, and visitor admittance will be suspended. We respectfully apologize”

For real? It doesn’t say that there were already too many people in there? Closed to outside visitors is all that it says? How about you don’t bully outsiders and tell me the truth?

So I thought of what my husband told me: “the roadside shops have all been closed.”

I looked all around me, and saw this:


And this:


Because of “internal adjustments” business is suspended? What?!


Shop upgrading? Are you sure you’re really upgrading?


Internal facility remodeling?


The whole building across the street was closed, and I was too far to read the announcements.


“All employees on holiday to celebrate the G20”… Finally, I found a truthful one.


But there were also some shops open for business, maybe one in five. Those that were open seemed to have irregular contents, they seemed kind of random.


The buses were still operating, but bicycles for rent near the bus stop, I don’t know why they were all gone.  


The subway corridors also had some armed police randomly checking identity cards. Secretly, I observed them for a long time. Generally, it isn’t a good move to do this for so long, but I wasn’t inspected.  


I went back and forth, and made my way back to the entrance to West Lake. By bringing him warm greetings and a glass of kumquat lemon iced tea, I established a rapport with a security guard.

I ask him if there were any other ways to get into West Lake Scenic Area. He told me that there are guards on duty 24 hours, that there’s no way to enter. I think what he told me was the truth, because he swallowed a big gulp of his kumquat lemon tea.

(I have no photo of the security uncle, this is classified.)

After going around and around in circles, I gave up and decided to go back to Shanghai. I specifically selected a different station (Hangzhou City Station) to board the train; the station had a peaceful atmosphere.


But as I climbed to the platform and entered the carriage, I saw that the car is empty. I couldn’t help but admit, at that time I was still a bit uneasy.


Finally I arrived back in Shanghai, to a crowded sea of people. A sea of people, a mountain of people,  mountains and sea, sea and mountains allowed me to regain a real-world sense of security.  


To summarize, Hangzhou witnessed its time on the world stage. The facts tell us three things:

  1. During the G20 period you could enter Hangzhou, but West Lake and other important areas were closed.
  2. Roadside shops were indeed closed.
  3. Most of the pedestrians on the street were real pedestrians, look at the pictures and you’ll see. None of them were particularly handsome.

Finally, the author offers a wonderful selfie from the Hangzhou subway.





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