More se­cu­rity, less soc­cer for China Congress

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: Night­clubs have been raided, TV dra­mas tar­geted by cen­sors and foot­ball matches post­poned-China is tight­en­ing se­cu­rity and dis­ci­pline to en­sure a land­mark Com­mu­nist Party meet­ing passes off flaw­lessly. The po­lice and cen­sor­ship or­gans have kicked into high gear to pre­vent any­thing over­shad­ow­ing the week-long, twice-a-decade congress which opens on Oc­to­ber 18.

The gath­er­ing is ex­pected to hand Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping a sec­ond five-year term as gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party, so­lid­i­fy­ing his po­si­tion as the most pow­er­ful Chi­nese leader in a gen­er­a­tion. Red ban­ners that “warmly wel­come” the 19th Party Congress have ap­peared across Bei­jing and of­fi­cials hope to clear the cap­i­tal’s no­to­ri­ously smoggy sky­line when more than 2,300 del­e­gates gather.

Mayor Cai Qi has re­port­edly warned the city “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”. China of­ten or­ders mass fac­tory clo­sures to clean up chron­i­cally pol­luted skies dur­ing key events, such as the 2008 Olympics. “We have to do a good job in as­sur­ing air qual­ity... and fight to win the war of main­tain­ing blue sky,” Cai told city cadres, also urg­ing them to guar­an­tee “zero er­rors” in food safety for del­e­gates and im­pec­ca­ble traf­fic con­trol.

Club raids

In late Septem­ber, some 400 rail­way se­cu­rity per­son­nel held tac­ti­cal ex­er­cises in prepa­ra­tion for the congress, China Na­tional Ra­dio re­ported. Pho­tos showed po­lice un­der­go­ing a hostage-tak­ing ex­er­cise where SWAT-uni­formed of­fi­cers used ropes to scale a build­ing and res­cue a dan­gling cap­tive. The depart­ment had to “make every ef­fort to pre­vent any dan­ger­ous thing from hap­pen­ing or a dan­ger­ous per­son from en­ter­ing the cap­i­tal via the rail­ways and en­sure ab­so­lute safety,” Bei­jing Rail­way Public Se­cu­rity Depart­ment Po­lit­i­cal Com­mit­tee mem­ber Yan Li told China Na­tional Ra­dio. A va­ri­ety of en­ter­tain­ment has been put on hold. A foot­ball match be­tween the cap­i­tal’s home team Guoan and Chongqing’s Dang­dai Li­fan sched­uled for the week­end be­fore the congress was shifted to later this month “due to a ma­jor event,” the China Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion said.

At a com­edy show last month, a Bei­jing venue was raided by po­lice who asked for­eign­ers to show their pa­pers and sub­mit to urine tests for drugs. A mu­sic and dance club can­celled shows planned for the two weeks around the congress, but said it was “too sen­si­tive” to say why. Some for­eign­ers have been vis­ited at home by po­lice ask­ing to see visas and pa­per­work. One for­eign jour­nal­ist said po­lice came to his home at nearly mid­night re­cently to con­firm de­tails about his em­ploy­ment, hous­ing con­tract and room­mates, ex­plain­ing they needed to check up on for­eign­ers dur­ing this “spe­cial time”. ‘Thank God for congress’ Even cer­tain tele­vi­sion shows have been paused. The cen­sor­ship bureau re­leased a no­tice in July call­ing for provin­cial TV sta­tions to stop broad­casts of pe­riod cos­tume and teen idol dra­mas “in or­der to stay in step with the over­all at­mos­phere” of se­ri­ous­ness sur­round­ing the congress. It is­sued a list of ap­proved se­ries it said would gen­er­ate “a good cul­tural at­mos­phere dur­ing the key pro­pa­ganda pe­riod,” mostly war sagas such as “The Farmer who was a Gen­eral”. In late Septem­ber, Hubei Prov­ince TV said it had re­placed “In­for­mal Talks,” a pop­u­lar talk show of for­eign­ers dis­cussing China’s so­cial prob­lems in Chi­nese, with one called “Glo­ri­ous China” in or­der to “wel­come” the congress.

China op­er­ates one of the most re­stric­tive in­ter­net cen­sor­ship regimes in the world, swiftly delet­ing con­tent deemed po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive and of­ten mov­ing to curb vi­ral sto­ries, for fear they might ex­ert so­cial in­flu­ence be­yond the party’s con­trol. When Lu Han, a heart­throb ac­tor and singer known as China’s Justin Bieber, crashed the servers of Twit­ter-like Weibo on Sun­day by gen­er­at­ing too much web traf­fic with a post in­tro­duc­ing his new girl­friend, most main­land me­dia out­lets re­mained silent.


BEI­JING: An el­derly man rides a bi­cy­cle past a China’s 19th Party Congress pro­mo­tion bill­board in Bei­jing yes­ter­day. The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s week-long, twice-a-decade congress will be held on Oc­to­ber 18.

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