The ruling Chinese Communist Party has thrown a tight security cordon around the country's capital ahead of a massive military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, while a specially made propaganda film is drawing ridicule from netizens for rewriting history.
Beijing authorities have begun a city-wide security operation targeting ordinary Chinese who come to lodge complaints about ruling Chinese Communist Party and government officials with central government departments, ahead of the Sept. 3 celebration, petitioners and activists told RFA.
"Why are they detaining them? Because of the military parade," Jiangsu petitioner Wu Jixin said. "They are oppressing the people ... they are afraid they'll make trouble in Beijing during the military parade, that's why they're detaining them."
Petitioner Lin Xiuli said she had heard that the operation to remove petitioners will begin in earnest on Aug. 22.
"I saw a few more armed police than usual on duty at sentry posts when I got up this morning," Lin said. "I heard that they will be rounding people up starting on Aug. 22, for example, petitioners."
"They don't want any of them to remain in Beijing."
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said police are already checking all vehicles coming into the city, however.
"In some cases, they make all the passengers get out of the vehicle, and then they open up the trunk and go through their bags and everything," Hu said.
"This really is a massive operation, in terms of scale, and how strict it is," he said.
A petitioner from the central province of Hubei, who declined to be named, agreed. "All the roads leading into Beijing are jammed after you get to Hebei, where there are three or four police checkpoints," he said. Hebei is the province surrounding Beijing.
"There are security checks at each checkpoint. Every passenger has to swipe their ID, and if they are [known to be] a petitioner, they're not allowed through."
Student enrollment postponed
Meanwhile, an employee at a Beijing university said students from the rest of China had had their enrollment date postponed to accommodate the police operation.
"All of the higher education institutions and schools have told students not to enroll until Sept. 7," the employee said.
"Students from outside Beijing won't be allowed into Beijing any earlier than that."
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said ethnic minority groups like the mostly Muslim Uyghurs from the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang are also being targeted under special security measures ahead of the military parade.
"They are under coercive measures and surveillance right across the board, being taken back to Xinjiang and so on," Raxit said. "It's extremely serious."
"In Beijing, sources have told us that Uyghurs doing business there have been place under police restrictions or escorted back [to their hometowns]," he said, adding that Uyghurs are being targeted as part of government anti-terrorism measures.
He said governments in all regions of China are encouraging people to report suspicious behavior, and using various tactics to place controls on Uyghurs, including on their ability to stay in hotels or to buy tickets for travel.
Sichuan petitioner He Suqing said she had postponed a planned trip to Beijing, adding that the new security measures will be extended until after the National Day holiday on Oct. 1, a time when petitioners typically seek redress for grievances and complaints about official wrongdoing.
"Starting today, nobody is allowed to go to Beijing, for 50 days," He said. "They didn't say it in so many words, but there will be a military parade in Beijing on Sept. 3."
Army fabricates history
Meanwhile, Chinese commentators have hit out at a specially produced historical feature film made by a People's Liberation Army-linked film unit in honor of the celebrations, which shows late supreme leader Mao Zedong playing a major role at an international wartime summit that he never attended.
In a poster and trailer for the war film Cairo Declaration, Mao is among the leaders representing the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and China who met in November 1943 to map out their stance on Japanese aggression in Asia.
China, which hadn't yet become the People's Republic, was actually represented by KMT nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who later lost a civil war to Mao's communist forces and fled with his government to Taiwan.
"By featuring Mao, who was not present at the meeting, but excluding Chiang , the poster shows no respect for history nor to Mao," Chinese cultural critic Sima Pingbang was quoted as saying by the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the Communist Party.
Netizens piled onto a website offering users the chance to make their own "Cairo Declaration" movie poster on Monday, tweeting the results, which included North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, current Chinese President Xi Jinping, Gollum, the "Tank Man" protester from the 1989 military crackdown and the "Minions" from the Despicable Me movie franchise.
"This has been all over social media in the past couple of days," Guangdong-based independent writer Ye Du told RFA. "The fact that they put old Mao on the poster made people laugh, because they were totally fabricating history."
"That's what led to all the ridicule and satire."
Social media user @taowengweiping wrote: "They are always saying that Japan doesn't respect history [in reference to its wartime past], but if ... you dare to blatantly distort history and distort the facts, how are people going to respect you?"
Reported by Qiao Long, Xin Lin, Lin Ping and Gao Shan for the Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.