Authorities in Shanghai have detained or placed under surveillance more than 100 people trying to highlight grievances against the government, as the Walt Disney Co.’s U.S.$5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort which opened to a waiting crowd of thousands on Thursday.
The opening gala had been due to feature fireworks, live music and dance, but was called off on Wednesday night owing to rainy weather.
Instead, officials held a muted ribbon-cutting ceremony before allowing the first Disney fans to start using the first Disney park on mainland Chinese soil.
“This is one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company,” chief executive Bob Iger told assembled dignitaries, before he and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang read out letters of support from Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.
However, city authorities evicted hundreds of residents and dozens of businesses to clean up the air and make way for the park, recent reports have indicated.
Security out in force
Petitioners who tried to attend the opening ceremony in the hope of making their grievances heard were detained by police after arriving at the Disney Resort stop on Shanghai’s metro system, they said.
Petitioner Yan Xiuying told RFA that police and private security guards were out in force ahead of the opening ceremony, and had detained more than 100 people on their way to the resort.
“We have all been detained and taken away by the government. We were on a bus,” Yan said. “Now the police are taking us into a small room.”
“There were several dozen police guarding more than 20 people on the bus, and taking photos and video of them,” she said. “They confiscated our cell phones immediately.”
Asked to confirm that more than 100 petitioners had been detained, Yan
replied: “Yes, yes, there were.”
However, a later attempt to connect to Yan’s cell phone resulted in a switched-off message.
Yan’s sister Yang Xiulan said the petitioners were trying to get the attention of city leaders and the international media to highlight their grievances.
“The leaders know that we have a grievance, and the local officials are trying to cover it up,” she said. “They won’t let us protest, and if you go shouting about injustice, they lock you up.”
“They are afraid of the foreign media, of international public opinion, so they are stopping us from speaking out about the situation,” she said.
Fellow petitioner Shen Zhiying said she was detained along with some 17 petitioners by police on Wednesday after arriving at the Disney metro stop a day ahead of the official opening.
“I don’t know where they came from; they were all wearing black, probably private security,” said Shen, who witnessed the detentions. “It was pretty scary.”
“It’s not right for them to do that; why do they have to detain ordinary people, who are just trying to stand up for our rights?” she said.
She said the authorities had detained some of the group in the Liuzao township government office buildings, before releasing them later that evening.
Shen said officials gave no reason for detaining her.
An employee who answered the phone at the police department in Pudong district, where the Disney resort is located, declined to comment on Thursday.
“I don’t know about this. Don’t know. Never heard of it,” the officer said.
She said the Disney resort doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of Pudong New District police.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Copyright Radio Free Asia