Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fortress Beijing

Police checks in Beijing

An air of paranoia exists in Beijing, something not seen in previous years. At subway stations bags must be put through X-ray machines and police are posted at exits and entrances. In some stations police can be seen photographing passengers as they leave and CCTV cameras are everywhere.
In a more strict enforcement of an already existing but rarely observed rule, all foreigners not staying at a hotel must register with police. In small towns there is a sense of disinterest from police as the foreigner attempts to register. But in Beijing the rules are strictly enforced with ID numbers of property owners required. The visitor is also required to be photographed and has to provide details of their itinerary. The logging of this personal data may not be all the authorities are storing on foreigners. Various reports in western media suggest that internet connects and telephone call s may be monitored by Chinese authorities. This is something denied by China, but both MI5, the British intelligence service, and US intelligence have warned their citizens not to divulge sensitive information in e-mails and during telephone conversations. The monitoring, security and checks may be an attempt to thwart any possible terrorist attack aimed at disrupting the Olympics.
On Monday 16 police died after they were targeted by terrorists in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Xinhua reported the group responsible may have been connected to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. At least 16 other police were injured in the attack which comes exactly two weeks after a double bomb attack on the Kunming bus system which left two civilians dead and at least 14 others injured. Around the Olympic village itself security is very tight with road blocks and police security checks everywhere. And around Tiananmen Square there are extensive police cordons and security checks. As the games get ever nearer the tension may increase further making visitors feel more than a little uncomfortable.
[tvnewswatch in Beijing, China]

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