HONG KONG—China's Communist Party cleared Beijing of any vehicles or passers-by Thursday for a lavish 60th National Day spectacle reminiscent of the opening of the 2008 Olympics, celebrating six decades since the founding of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong in 1989.
The parade included a traditional review of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops by President Hu Jintao, wearing a dark "Mao" suit, goose-stepping troops, carnival-style floats, and nuclear-capable missiles.
"From here it was that Chairman Mao solemnly announced the founding of the People's Republic of China, and from then the Chinese people stood up," Hu told assembled guests and troops from the rostrum of the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
"Today a socialist China embracing modernization, embracing the world, and embracing the future stands lofty and firm," he said.
But the "people" of the People's Republic were noticeably absent from the 60th anniversary celebrations.
"It's been just like martial law here since about 2 p.m. this afternoon," a Beijing resident surnamed Yang said on the eve of the parade.
"Private vehicles are totally banned from the city ... People aren't allowed to walk along the streets, and all the shops are closed," Yang said.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, the parade of "8,000 picture-perfect soldiers, tanks and missiles, 60 elaborate floats, and 100,000 well-drilled civilians was a proud moment for many Chinese citizens, watching the spectacle across the country on television."
Among the show of weapons were Dongfeng 31 missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads over 10,000 km (5,400 miles), according to state television.
Authorities have been stepping up security for weeks, notably in the wake of violent unrest since early last year among the country’s minority Tibetan and Uyghur populations, many of whom resent Chinese Communist Party rule.
"In any areas where there are Uyghurs living, there have been official organizations set up so they can offer praise and gratitude to the Communist Party to mark its 60th year in power," World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said.
"They are forcing Uyghurs to take part. This includes all manner of artistic and cultural events," he added.
In the Tibetan capital, authorities carried out a highly orchestrated flag-raising ceremony in the square outside the Potala Palace, former residence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
"Not even tourists will be allowed to go there," an employee at a Lhasa-based travel agency said. "The whole place is under military control. Even local troops will be barred from the area."
An official who answered the phone at the Lhasa police station said traffic controls would be in place, but said tourists would be able to move freely around the city.
And an employee who answered the phone at the Sera Monastery said the monks were being allowed to come in and out freely, and that the monastery was under normal operation.
China typically holds grand celebrations every 10 years to commemorate revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's proclamation of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Tanks rolled through the capital in the early hours of Thursday, which will herald an eight-day national holiday for ordinary Chinese.
This year's parade in Beijing included the release of thousands of white doves and balloons, a model of the 2008 Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium, and models of cows and lunar orbiting modules.
Flights into the capital were grounded, and the flying of kites and homing pigeons was banned on the day of the parade.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long and in Cantonese by Hai Lan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.