In late April, a group of Chinese officials, in a show of force to protect the country’s waterpark industry, ordered the closing of the two largest swimming pools in Shanghai and Chongqing.
The government is now investigating the matter.
“It was an outrageous act, the biggest of its kind,” Wang Xiaoming, a Shanghai waterpark owner and a member of a citywide watchdog group, told me in an email.
The pool owners were fined a total of 1.7 billion yuan ($1.8 million), which, according to the government’s own figures, is more than double the amount of the fines that have been levied on the other swimming pools.
The pools are the only swimming pools on Shanghai’s mainland that can’t offer swimming, but they still remain open.
The Chinese government has also ordered the closure of the popular Beijing pool, where Chinese tourists flock to swam in the ocean and have free access to restaurants and shops.
Chinese officials have been cracking down on foreign tourists visiting China in recent years, but the crackdown on foreign tourism in China has only intensified.
Wang said that he would continue to operate the pool, but would be “tougher” on foreign visitors.
“I want to make sure that foreigners are not in any danger, and I will not let any foreigners into my pool,” he told me.
The situation for Chinese tourists in Shanghai is no different.
Last year, the number of Chinese visitors to Shanghai dropped by almost half, from 1.6 million in 2016 to 1.1 million in 2017.
And while the Chinese government hasn’t cracked down on the foreign tourist trade in China, there is still a serious shortage of hotels in the country.
The number of hotel rooms in Shanghai dropped from 531,000 in 2016 and 539,000 last year to just over 500,000 this year.
This has prompted hotel owners in Shanghai to put up advertisements in local newspapers offering free accommodations.
“Hotel demand is rising in Shanghai, so I am taking advantage of this opportunity to increase hotel accommodation in the city,” said Wang, who was not aware of the government ban.
“If the government wants to prevent foreign tourists from staying in the capital, then I am willing to make arrangements for them to stay here.”
It’s unclear if the government will be able to maintain the ban on foreign guests staying in Shanghai hotels.
The two largest Chinese swimming pools are in the southern part of the city, on the outskirts of the central business district.
They are the most popular tourist destinations in Shanghai.
“The Chinese government is still struggling to keep up with the surge in foreign tourists,” Wang said.
“This is because they have very limited resources.”
The pools, and the surrounding area, have been targeted for redevelopment.
In early March, a developer proposed the construction of a large hotel complex in the area, called Zhongjing, with an estimated cost of about 7.5 billion yuan, or roughly $7.9 million.
Zhongjiang is one of Shanghai’s most expensive commercial districts.
The development will also be built in an area where two swimming pools have been closed in recent months.
In late March, Chinese media reported that Zhongjin’s residents were outraged when the government announced the development.
“When we hear about the construction, we will take our grievances to the legislature,” one Zhong Jin resident, Wu Yi, told the Beijing Youth Daily.
“We won’t tolerate foreigners living in our city.”
But the government has so far been unable to convince residents to oppose the development project.
In response, a number of locals protested outside the government office, according a local journalist, in front of the local government office.
“As long as the government keeps its promises, the pool will remain open, but we can’t let foreign tourists come here,” said another resident, Fan Jingyu.
Wang and other Shanghai water park owners said they would continue operating their pools, though they would likely have to close the entire park.
“They are the two biggest pools in the world, so it’s only fair,” Wang told me, “if they are closed.
I will definitely have to change the way I run the business.”