2017-08-23 11:48:39

Tourists at China’s small theme parks may want to think twice before getting in line for that swinging pirate ship.

Unlicensed factories and workshops in Xingyang, a city in central China’s Henan province, are once again under scrutiny for dealing in past-their-prime carnival rides, The Beijing News reported Monday. The following day, a local official told the newspaper that four such businesses are now under investigation.

The companies were found to be operating despite the potentially life-threatening safety risks of their products — two people died last year in Henan while on rides manufactured by unlicensed workshops — and despite a previous crackdown. After a 2012 report on the illicit industry by state broadcaster China Central Television, 64 of these companies were shut down by the local government.

One unnamed workshop owner explained to The Beijing News on Monday how his business works. He said he had recently purchased a flying swing ride — seats attached to a rotating central pillar — for 200,000 yuan ($30,000). After a few alterations and a new paint job, he said he could resell it for double the price.

Most of the workshop owners the newspaper spoke to admitted that they had no license to produce, refurbish, or sell the large rides they dealt with. On occasion, they would “borrow” the licenses of other companies when dealing with equipment they couldn’t legally produce themselves.

The customers of these workshops are usually carnivals, small amusement parks, and other tourist attractions located in China’s small- and medium-sized cities, the report said. A manager at another workshop told The Beijing News that they had sold around 20 refurbished swing rides — five within China and the rest overseas.

A project manager surnamed Zhou at Golden Horse Technology Entertainment Co. Ltd., a company that produces equipment for China’s amusement parks, told Sixth Tone that manufactures must obtain a license to produce or assemble large rides, whose lifespans he estimated to be eight to 10 years, provided they received regular maintenance. “Different equipment will have different vulnerable parts, so to ensure safety, everything should be checked on a daily basis,” Zhou said.

Closer scrutiny following the 2012 report has made the lives of the Xingyang businesses a little harder — “Five years ago, we could make whatever we wanted,” said the unnamed workshop owner — but still they have managed to find workarounds.

One interviewee told The Beijing News that their company had installed a secret switch on its airplane ride — small planes that fly in a circle as their pilots control how high they fly. With the switch off, the planes can reach a height of 3 meters, meaning the ride qualifies as “large entertainment equipment” and that the company should be subject to regular inspections, among other safety measures.

When turned on, however, the planes fly at 2 meters, allowing the machine to skirt the additional safety regulations. “The height control button is well-hidden,” said the interviewee. “If you didn’t know about it, you’d never find it.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Shao Dan/VCG)