Several days ago, this is what many streets throughout Shenyang, the capital city of Liaoning province, the largest city in northeast China, looked like.
Why? What happened? See if you can figure it out…
Shenyang Shops Close En Masse, Suspected to Be Because of Anti-Counterfeit and Substandard Goods Punishments Ahead of the National Games
A City of Closed Storefronts
“Urgent Proposal: Many shops in Shenyang are closed, and there are rumors everywhere. The authorities urgently need to make a statement, and restore stability among the people…” On the afternoon of August 6th, Liaoning province CPPCC member Zhuang Tingwei submitted an urgent proposal and at the same time publicized it on the Sina Weibo microblog service, hoping that Shenyang city’s relevant authorities will quickly respond to citizen concerns and netizen questions.
On this day, microblogs, discussion forums, and various other internet spaces were heatedly discussing Shenyang’s “Great Depression” and “the city of closed shops” while many Shenyang citizens were directly inconvenienced: unable to get a haircut, unable to buy nails, unable to eat lunch. And according to further information, there had been similar situations other cities in Liaoning Province such as Dalian, Benxi, Anshan and Fushun.
Can’t Even Find A Place to Buy Rice
Many complaints from Shenyang citizens had been seen on Weibo, [email protected] said that the restaurant he worked at was closed and he was forced to take a unpaid vacation while [email protected] told this reporter that even though she lives in the downtown area of Shenyang, now “it is even impossible to buy a bottle of water because none of the supermarkets/convenience stores are open”. Miss Weng who works in an auto parts store in Wu’ai Market said that she went shopping for clothes with her friend the other day but every shop was closed. “It was rather amusing”. And her own shop has been often closed these days as well.
“More deserted than even Spring Festival [when everybody goes back to their hometown to celebrate the holiday]” is the feeling of many city residents. What more, the situation was even worse in the surrounding areas, because at least in the big city of Shenyang the big supermarkets and restaurants were still open whereas according to local news, 95% of the shops and stores in places like Liaozhong County were closed, to the point where for a time it was impossible to find someplace to buy rice or oil. One Liaozhong resident who was unsuccessful in buying rice said to local media, “If you were to come to Liaozhong at this time and stayed for 5 days, you’d probably starve to death!”
“Crackdown On Fake and Shoddy Products” Rumor Causes Businesses to Close
As reported by Shenyang’s local media, ever since July 13th, a large number of businesses in markets such as Dongbei and Wu’ai had closed their doors, the reason being rumors of law enforcement inspecting and cracking down on fake or shoddy products though no one knew just who was doing the inspections. At the time when reporters had contacted both the Industrial and Commercial Administration of the district and the city, both of them said they had not been notified of any law enforcement activities. According to a report by Dongbei News Net, because the crackdown was too ruthless and too strict, some shop owners would rather suffer losses from closing their shops than opening their shops to be checked.
Afterwards, Anshan, Fushun, Benxi, Dalian, and other areas one after another witnessed the phenomenon of large numbers of stores being closed. According to their local media reports, the situations were more or less the same, all reporting rumors of a crackdown on counterfeit or shoddy goods or major inspections to see if the business owners had “all 5 certificates”, “all 6 certificates” or “all 7 certificates” though no one knew just what certificates were required or what authority was making the inspections, only rumors that any problem discovered would result in severe fines, and people didn’t want to “ask for trouble” so they decided to just close their shops for the time being.
One shop owner told this reporter that normally he’s not afraid of inspections, but he thinks the inspections this time aren’t the normal kind, with rumors at the time saying the fines levied were in the tens of thousands of yuan each, and that they were even arresting people and confiscating goods. “For example, if you had an employee whose ‘health certificate’ did not go through the annual inspection last year, he would be taken away right away, and you have to pay money to get him back. Never has it been like this before.”
A “Enforcement Campaign” Ahead of the National Games?
Is there really a crackdown on counterfeit goods and enforcement campaign, and why did it have such a huge effect?
Shenyang’s Industrial and Commercial Administration explained to the local media that the inspections were part of the operation to crack down on fake and shoddy products in anticipation of the National Games to be held in Shenyang next year, led by the Shenyang Public Security Bureau, with cooperation from the Industrial and Commercial Bureau. Once the fine is up to a certain amount, “the Public Security Bureau could actually detain people, which is how this situation was caused.”
According to the local media, a reporter heard an announcement at the Wu’ai Market saying, “From July 7th to July 16th, there will be a 10-day campaign cracking down on economic crimes, with public security [police/authorities] cracking down in accordance with the law on those specifically engaged in selling goods bearing counterfeit registered trademarks, counterfeit goods, and similar behavior… those engaged in the illegal sale of fake and substandard goods will be cracked down upon and violators will uniformly be prosecuted for legal liability…”
The reporter learnt that the “battle” mentioned in the broadcast refers to a “battle of severely punishing economic crimes”, the “case-solving battle” is considered the major mission of the local police.
An August 6th notice from the Shenyang Public Security Bureau (Donglin District Division):
Local police stations and relevant units:
As requested by [Shenyang’s] Public Security Bureau, every local police station shall organize all police staff to go deep into their jurisdictions to learn information on the problem of small shops, restaurants and other businesses closing, and to propagate and lead. All business must be reopened before 3pm today, the PSB will be inspecting how this is working starting from this noon.
All local police stations please report the closing and reopening information to the PSB before 3pm today. Explanations will be needed for shops that are still closed.
Shenyang Responds to Shops Closing Down: Will Earnestly Deal with the Indiscriminate Fining and Law Enforcement
In the face of continuous pressure from internet public opinion, on the morning of Augst 7th, the official Shenyang Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department microblog account [email protected] released a statement denying they had implemented measures involving targeted enforcement and high fines. August 8th afternoon, the Shenyang Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department made yet another statement regarding this matter, claiming that “any arbitrary inspections, indiscriminate fines, and related illegal enforcement and rough enforcement behavior, once confirmed, will be sternly dealt with in accordance with the law, and the relevant departments and responsible persons will be held accountable. We also hope that business owners will forgive their misgivings and open their businesses without worries.”
A newer notice by the Shenyang Public Security Bureau (Heping District Division):
The 2012 anti-counterfeit-and-shoddy-products measures launched in cooperation with the Shenyang Municipal Government have come to a conclusion. According to an urgent meeting held by the Shenyang Municipal Government on August 6th, all inspections against markets have been put to an end. We hope all shop owners will open their businesses as usual. If any public security units from other jurisdictions happen to come and take inspections, they must be accompanied by local police. Otherwise, shop owners may dial 110 to call the police.
Comments from Sina Weibo:
Shenyang will be holding the 2013 National Games, but the [provincial government] has no money, so they thought of a way to collect/extort money from the ordinary common people. A city resident reacted: “Fruit vendors whose fruits are detected as having chemical fertilizer are fined, while clothes sellers whose clothes are found to have quality problems are also fined. Supermarkets selling toothpicks must have a ‘Deforestation Certificate’, computer retailers must have a Health Certificate, and those selling steamed buns without wearing face masks are also fined. The fines range from a few thousand on the low end to over ten thousand on the high end.”
What does you getting fined for having problems have anything to do with the Party?!
Detain? Kidnapping for ransom is kidnapping for ransom, why use such a high-sounding word [as “detain”]?
If 95% of the shops are closed, doesn’t it mean that 95% of Shenyang’s shops are selling fake goods?
Fortunately Liaoning isn’t holding the Olympics.
Looks like the gangsters are collecting their protection fees, only this time they collected too quickly, and too much.
The Public Security Bureau taking the lead in cracking down on fake and substandard goods. Sounds funny to me. Are they actually cracking down on counterfeit goods or getting into fights? [This comment is best understood in Chinese due to the homonyms.]
This is exactly the result of too much bureaucracy! Running a business nowadays is already extremely difficult.
Yesterday on a CCTV interview, the Industrial and Commercial Administration was still flatly denying it, saying there were no inspections, that the business owners simply listened to rumors and panicked.
The government does not have the money for the National Games, so they’re trying to collect money everywhere. Fuck, who knows what group of bastards squandered the money we pay in taxes.
I get the feeling the whole country is going to revolt soon.
The Japanese devils have reached the village [so everybody close their door and hide], [except these people] are worse than the Japanese devils.
The truth is simply that the ZF is short on money for the National Games.