China ups se­cu­rity be­fore ‘Congress’

All po­lice leave can­celled

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING, Sept 28, (RTRS): China is tight­en­ing se­cu­rity for next month’s twice-a-decade Com­mu­nist Party Congress, can­celling po­lice leave in Bei­jing, lim­it­ing tourism to Ti­bet, and clamp­ing down on the spread of po­lit­i­cal rumours.

High-level meet­ings in China are typ­i­cally ac­com­pa­nied by a se­cu­rity crack­down — as well as un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally smog-free blue skies — with the sta­bil­ity-ob­sessed party not want­ing to run the risk that any­one or any­thing of­fers a dis­trac­tion.

Thou­sands of po­lice­men from other prov­inces have been sent to the Chi­nese cap­i­tal to re­in­force, a source with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter told Reuters. A sec­ond source, with ties to the coun­try’s se­cu­rity forces and cit­ing con­ver­sa­tions with se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers, said all po­lice leave in Bei­jing had been can­celled start­ing from early Septem­ber.

Bei­jing Com­mu­nist Party chief Cai Qi on Wed­nes­day asked the city for “120 per­cent” ef­fort to en­sure safety for the congress, the of­fi­cial Bei­jing Daily said.

“We must hold the line for so­cial con­trol, elim­i­nate all desta­bil­is­ing fac­tors, hold the line for cy­ber se­cu­rity and res­o­lutely crack down on po­lit­i­cal rumours and harm­ful news,” Cai said.

Bei­jing’s largest mar­ket for metal build­ing ma­te­ri­als will be shut­tered from Fri­day and is be­ing re­lo­cated to He­bei prov­ince tak­ing with it more than 10,000 in­dus­try work­ers and stall own­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing Daily.

The mar­ket’s un­ceas­ing growth had cre­ated a “messy environment” where mi­grants con­gre­gate, the pa­per said, with­out men­tion­ing the cru­cial party gath­er­ing.

Xi

Se­cu­rity

Many of the tight­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures tar­get mi­grants, with ID checks at metro sta­tions and pa­trols out­side gov­ern­ment min­istries to en­sure any pe­ti­tion­ers from out of town are rounded up im­me­di­ately should they at­tempt to make a scene.

Some 2,000 del­e­gates will con­verge on Bei­jing for the Congress, stay­ing at ho­tels across the city, and se­cu­rity will only get tighter as its open­ing nears, mean­ing any protests will be quickly shut down.

China’s on­go­ing clam­p­down on cy­berspace has seen What­sApp, the mes­sag­ing ser­vice run by Face­book, pe­ri­od­i­cally unavail­able in the past few weeks, while cer­tain gifs us­ing im­ages of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping can­not be posted to group chats on mes­sen­ger app WeChat.

China’s In­ter­net reg­u­la­tor, in a state­ment to Reuters, said the gov­ern­ment had the le­gal right to pre­vent the spread of “vi­o­lent, ter­ror­ist and other il­le­gal in­for­ma­tion”.

“As a well-known global app, What­sApp should re­ally proac­tively take steps to block the dis­sem­i­na­tion and spread of il­le­gal in­for­ma­tion,” it said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing or mak­ing a spe­cific men­tion of WeChat.

New lim­its have been placed on dis­cus­sion in pri­vate group chats. Rules re­leased at the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber make com­pa­nies and group own­ers ac­count­able for breaches of con­tent rules.

China’s cy­ber watchdog on Mon­day also im­posed the largest pos­si­ble fines of 100,000 yuan ($15,110) on tech giants Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd, Baidu Inc and Weibo Corp for fail­ing to cen­sor on­line con­tent.

The mea­sures are far from re­stricted to just keep­ing Bei­jing se­cure. Mea­sures have also been in­tro­duced in strate­gi­cally sen­si­tive places in other parts of China.

Se­cu­rity has been height­ened at ports along the Yangtze River, with the Mar­itime Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion say­ing last week that it was con­sid­er­ing curbs on load­ing and un­load­ing haz­ardous or flammable chem­i­cals from Oct 11 to Oct 28.

Travel for for­eign tourists to Ti­bet is also be­ing re­stricted, some travel agents said. Ti­bet is al­ways sen­si­tive for Bei­jing given the op­po­si­tion to Chi­nese rule that ex­ists within the Ti­betan com­mu­nity, and even in nor­mal times for­eign­ers need per­mis­sion to go there.

An of­fi­cial at China In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice Ltd said the gov­ern­ment had told it that no for­eign­ers were al­lowed to visit Ti­bet from Oct 18-28 be­cause of the Congress. Three other travel agen­cies con­firmed a ban would be lifted in late Oc­to­ber.

Or­gan­is­ers of a dis­cus­sion on pol­i­tics in the Mid­dle East can­celled the event in Bei­jing be­cause they were wor­ried about po­ten­tial pres­sure from the au­thor­i­ties, a source with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter told Reuters.

Democ­racy

“The word ‘democ­racy’ was only used once in the ad­verts, not in a sen­si­tive way, but still they thought it was best to can­cel,” the source said, de­clin­ing to be named.

Feng Xiao­gang, a fa­mous Chi­nese film di­rec­tor known for work that brushes against sen­si­tive is­sues and the lim­its of cen­sor­ship, an­nounced last week that the Sept 30 re­lease of “Youth”, his lat­est film, had to be de­layed. Feng gave no ex­pla­na­tion. How­ever, a source with ties to the cen­sors told Reuters that the au­thor­i­ties had con­sid­ered it risky to screen the film be­fore the congress, as it is par­tially set dur­ing China’s 1979 war with Viet­nam — a touchy sub­ject. The fear was that it could spark de­bate about the moral­ity and ne­ces­sity of the con­flict.

In and around Bei­jing, ef­forts have also been ramped up to en­sure the skies re­main blue over the Congress and not pol­luted by the city’s no­to­ri­ous smog.

The city of Han­dan, near Bei­jing, has or­dered steel mills to halve out­put a month ear­lier than the usual mid-Novem­ber cut­backs aimed at curb­ing air pol­lu­tion, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

Rounds of in­spec­tions by the au­thor­i­ties to check up on health and safety or en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments have left small busi­nesses closed for days, weeks or months, own­ers and em­ploy­ees say.

Fac­to­ries on the out­skirts of Bei­jing, even those that make lux­ury goods, have been closed for days while in­spec­tions are car­ried out, ac­cord­ing to one em­ployee who de­clined to be named.

Some low-end, fast food-type restau­rants in Bei­jing have also been or­dered to close, os­ten­si­bly to pre­vent fire risks and to limit pol­lu­tion, res­i­dents say.

“There’s so many in­spec­tions at the mo­ment,” said a pan­cake seller who gave her fam­ily name as Liu. “What am I sup­posed to do if they make me shut?”

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