Shenyang’s law enforcement units gang up on small businesses for hefty fines? All stores close in panic
Multiple Chinese discussion forums and social media report that almost all small businesses in Shenyang, particularly those run by owners with no connection with the government, have put up the shutters to avoid sudden raids, detention and hefty fines. The police blitz on such a large scale is believed to be an effort to collect money for the National Sports Games hosted by the city in 2013.
“Shenyang really needs money for the National Games! They check ID, receipts, authorization, contract, insurance, unemployment card, health card. They even ask a toothpick seller for tree-felling authorization!” A post on KDNet, a popular discussion forum, said.
“If you sell toilet paper, congratulations, you need wastewater discharge permit. If you are a transporter who pulls a tricycle, congratulations again, in addition to the aforementioned, you also need transportation permit,” another chimed in.
Many residents in Shenyang have been suffering from the tangible inconveniences, “I can’t have a hairdo, can’t buy a nail, and can’t eat lunch outside.”
Photos of empty streets lined with mom-and-pop stores with closed doors in daylight have circulated on Sina Weibo and become the solid proof to back up the hearsay.
“Out On Vacation”
Another long letter from an anonymous net user, compressed into an image (shown below in three segments) to go beyond Weibo’s 140-character limit, details the meltdown of the northeastern city’s business. The Weibo post with the image has received over 54,000 shares and 9,000 comments so far.
Translation of excerpts of the letter
I am a follower of your Tencent microblogging account. I trust you, so I am going to expose the shady deals in Shenyang this way.
I am a small business owner who came from a southern city to Shenyang to open my store in 2011. All my procedures were in accordance with law. I am a law-abiding citizen.
Recently, in many cities in Liaoning province, especially in Shenyang, a host of businesses in multiple industry, including grocery store, restaurants, apparel sellers, home appliances sellers and beauty salons, have closed doors overnight. Some businesses have been closed for more than half a month. Owners have suffered a great loss from it. Consumers have also been adversely affected. The public anger is simmering. Grumblings of he people fill the streets.
Business owners’ general impression is: there is a unified police force made up with public security, industrial and commercial authorities, sanitation inspectors, fire department, chengguan (city management). They are not gangsters, and yet worse than gangsters. They use underworld tricks, under the pretense of restructuring and management, to accumulate wealth by unfair and illicit means. They take the liberty of arresting people and levying fines. Each and every business, with or without a license, has been fined, which has sparked great controversy in places like Shenyang, Fushun and Xinmin. They are very experienced and shrewd. Usually, a few plainclothes members of them first drive an ordinary-looking car around, searching for weak businesses that have a considerable size, and yet have no influence or connection, particularly those run by owners from out of town. It doesn’t matter if the business is legal. The moment it is targeted, they will invent all types of reasons and allegations, for example, ill sanitation, inadequate fire prevention, and take the person and the goods away without giving them time to dispute. They will not release the person until he is forced pay a fine, which can be anywhere between 10,000 (US$1,580) and 500,000 (US$79,300) yuan.
A businessman, who came form the south, has opened a few auto body shop, which has a lot of trade. Then he became a target of theirs. They took away a few shop assistants into custody and still haven’t released them yet. This owner is forced to close down its shops and hide away. A granny, who peddled tofu on the street, was fined 2,000 yuan for not wearing a mouth mask. There are many similar examples.
Why do they have to do this? About the reason, there is one version that has been widely rumored among business owners in Shenyang and not confirmed yet: The 2013 National Games that Shenyang will host has a 500-million-yuan hole in the budget. But with the economy in the mess, the central government has taken austerity measures and thus does not allot any fund, leaving Liaoning province to be fully responsible for fundraising. So they came up with this sinister idea of taking it out on small businesses.
In a normal country, taxpayers are free to start an enterprise and operate it. The function of the government is to offer them protection and conveniences, not the opposite!
But today, in August 2012, in Shenyang, China, a large number of taxpayers have to run about to dodge the government-sponsored exploitation and capture, as if they were drug traffickers!
What is stranger is, mainstream media turn a blind eye to so big an incident and give little coverage of it. The only mention of it was about how businesses are overreacting, and the reply from the government is, “These are nothing but regular inspections.”
Mass closedown of businesses, which has turned the city into a ghost town, may have prompted the city government’s decision to issue an emergency notice, demanding all stores to resume operating. The notice also stated that police will be dispatched to their respective jurisdictions to collect information about and provide guidelines to business owners, and report cases of those who refuse to reopen.
At the same time, the Shenyang authorities responded to the online accusation on its Sina Weibo page, denying any such attempt, “Recently, influenced by unsubstantiated rumors, some business owners have closed doors and stopped operation. It is learned that the relevant departments have never launched any concentrated cleanup campaign or levy heavy fines. Hope all owners can stop spreading or believing rumors and resume business.”
The online masses don’t seem to have bought the official explanation.
昆仑书客：The government should have explained the closedown like this, “In an active response to the campaign of “Earth Hour” launched by international environmental protection organizations, Shenyang city government has extended the event to be one day long to increase its effectiveness and demonstrate its devotion to environmental protection. Yesterday, the social response was good. Most businesses and citizens actively responded to the call and participated. The overall atmosphere was harmonious. Yesterday, 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity and 2.5 million tons of water were saved. This morning, the sky over Shenyang is bluer!”
如皋新生活-乐极生：I suggest that business owners learn from people in Qidong and stroll in front of Shenyang’s government office buildings.
而今迈步从头越2：From the south to the north, people’s voices are louder and louder, and their resistance is stronger and stronger. This is actually in line with the old saying, “Misgovernment drives the people to revolt,” “Where there is oppression, there is resistance!”
三彩马: One of our business partners pays nearly ten million yuan in tax each year. And even he got arrested for days…How can those small vendors be expected to survive this?!
蕾蒂麻麻：Will they in the end force everyone to open doors and create the illusion of prosperity?
Q設計張弦: I contacted my distributor in Shenyang via QQ (IM), and got the following reply: it is true. We are exactly a business owner who came from the south, has no connection while running a sizeable business. Mine has already been suffering. I am staying in Beijing and dare not go to Shenyang. I am afraid of getting caught. It is white terror. And that police crack down on counterfeits is also true. They’ve employed all sorts of surveillance methods to impose fines and make money.