Dazzling display for invited guests only

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 12:00am

Shanghai put on a dazzling show for its Apec guests yesterday, treating them to a lavish banquet and a stunning fireworks display, but it shut out most of its 16 million residents from the festivities.

Police and paramilitary troops blocked off much of the central area, including the stately Bund waterfront district and the futuristic Oriental Pearl TV tower, as fireworks lit up the night sky.

Shanghai's normally busy streets took on the look of an abandoned movie set as many residents, who have been given an unexpected holiday since Wednesday, either stayed at home or headed for a break outside the city.

State guests were treated to a banquet hosted by President Jiang Zemin at the sprawling International Convention Centre along the banks of the Huangpu River that cuts through Shanghai.

Hundreds of ballerinas pirouetted in unison on a street corner and a marching band repeatedly raced through its repertoire as it waited for official motorcades to drive past en route to a meeting with the host of the gathering, Mr Jiang.

Nineteen of the Apec leaders marched down a red carpet in a lengthy corridor to be greeted by Mr Jiang.

In the evening, fireworks erupted from 10 barges in the Huangpu river and the tops of 23 buildings along the Bund, which was dramatically lit up by spotlights.

Fang Dinghua, chief spokeswoman of Shanghai's Public Security Bureau, said: 'More than 60,000 officers will be working, including 40,000 local police officers.'

Police blocked off highways and the main tunnel across the Huangpu, separating the two sides of the city.

One newspaper quoted a participant as saying, with perhaps a little exaggeration: 'The Chinese have not seen such a grand international gathering since the Tang dynasty drew to a close 1,100 years ago.'