China Mounts Massive Security Operation in Beijing Ahead of Centenary

Citizen surveillance teams, armed police and soldiers are highly visible on the city's streets ahead of the July 1 event.
2021-06-23
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China Mounts Massive Security Operation in Beijing Ahead of Centenary People wait for fireworks during a rehearsal of a performance marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, at the Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing, June 22, 2021.
AFP

Authorities in the Chinese capital have stepped up security measures ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s centenary celebration on July 1, while rights activists and dissidents are being forced to leave town by state security police, RFA has learned.

One video clip uploaded to social media showed more than 200 buses filled with People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in full camouflage with weapons driving into Beijing's iconic Bird's Nest stadium.

Another showed dozens of police officers with police dogs on Chongwenmen Street near Chaoyang district.

Beijing residents reported an increase in the number of People's Armed Police on the streets of the capital, as well as plainclothes officers of the state security police.

At the gates of residential compounds, retired elderly people wearing red armbands were on duty, watching everyone entering and leaving.

Beijing-based political activist Zha Jianguo said he is also under surveillance.

"This time because of the centenary, there is an unprecedented level of stability maintenance; the tightest I've seen in years," he said.

"There is a detail following me now," Zha said. "They follow me everywhere, even when I go to the hospital."

"There are people on duty at my door round the clock," he said. "They started from June 15, and will carry on until the beginning of July."

"A lot of other people like me, who are seen as 'unstable elements', are also under guard right now," Zha said.

Enforced vacations

Beijing-based dissident Ji Feng said state security police from his hometown in the southwestern province of Guizhou will be taking him out of town from Wednesday.

"[Tiananmen massacre victim and long-time activist] Qi Zhiyong and others were taken away on enforced vacation on June 15, while Yan Zhenxue was taken away on June 20," Ji told RFA.

"I'm probably leaving [Wednesday] or the day after," he said. "The state security police have already notified me."

Retired Central Party School professor Cai Xia, who is now in the United States, commented via Twitter: "

"The CCP is treating its own centenary celebrations like a major disaster, wielding weapons, money and high-tech surveillance," Cai wrote. "They are detaining people and shutting down their social media accounts at will."

"What are they afraid of? Is this centenary a celebration or a funeral?"

A Beijing-based scholar who gave only a surname, Huang, said the CCP is treating its own people like the enemy.

"It's like this every time the CCP has a major celebration: heavily armed military and police all over Beijing, with red-armband monitors along every street and alleyway," Huang said.

"Why can't they show the people's enjoyment to the world, instead of treating them like the enemy every time, treating the whole thing like the scene of a crime?"

Radio control

He said the answer lies with the fundamental insecurity at the heart of CCP: the fear that growing inequality and a backlash from oppressed groups will eventually undermine its power.

"The authorities know that their regime is entirely based on brute force and propaganda, so they use a major celebration like this to flex their muscles and to try to intimidate people," Huang said.

Beijing Capital International Airport announced on June 20 that the airport would adopt more stringent security inspection measures, including prohibiting passengers from carrying lithium batteries and power banks in checked baggage, Hong Kong's Chinese-language Ming Pao newspaper reported.

The Beijing municipal government has also implemented radio control in designated areas of Beijing during the centenary celebrations, the paper said.

"The use of radio equipment and high-powered non-radio equipment that radiates radio waves will be banned in controlled areas, except for those approved by the radio regulatory authorities to serve the centenary ceremony, the report said.

Meanwhile, private courier companies have been banned from operating in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiaxing, Jinggangshan, Yan'an, Zunyi and Xibaipo, with mail parcels entering Beijing subjected to additional security checks.

The governments of Fengtai, Daxing, Fangshan and other districts of Beijing will also be checking privately renting tenants under their jurisdiction, and expelling petitioners pursuing official complaints against the government.

The Chinese military is holding a series of activities to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the CCP's founding, but no military parade will take place on Tiananmen Square.

The events will include theoretical seminars, themed forums and a massive exhibition at the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution.

The PLA has produced a number of movies to mark the centenary, "displaying the military's love of the party, the nation and the people," according to high-ranking officials in the Central Military Commission.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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