No pigeons, no balloons: China cracks down for party congress

Nov 2, 2012

Communist Party reaches 'new level of psychosis' as it readies for safe handover of power in Beijing

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A WEEK before the Chinese Communist Party's once-in-a-decade power reshuffle, when President Hu Jintao is expected to hand over to Xi Jinping, a security crackdown is underway in Peking - and the top brass are leaving no 'threat' unaddressed.

Added restrictions are not unusual around major government events in Beijing, but for the 18th Communist Party Congress the security apparatus seems to be going the extra mile, both on the city's streets and in cyberspace.

One dissident who was made to leave the capital called the new restrictions "absurd", telling Reuters, "they've reached a new level of psychosis".

Here are some of the more unusual security measures:

  • Beijing's residents have complained that their internet speeds have slowed, as the censors step up their activities, reports Reuters. The government is especially targeting virtual private networks (VPNs), which are used by tech-savvy individuals to bypass what is known as the 'Great Firewall' of Chinese internet restrictions.
  • The city's pigeon-keepers have been instructed to keep their birds cooped up during the conference. The Beijing Carrier Pigeon Association has postponed two annual races which were scheduled to take place during the conference. This apparently stems from the concern that protest messages will be circulated via pigeon - a method used by dissidents in the 1990s.
  • The crackdown is affecting Beijing's public transport as concerns over the distribution of "undesirable materials" mount, according to the Wall Street Journal. Taxi companies have instructed drivers to remove the handles from their rear windows to prevent passengers chucking protest messages into the street.
  • Authorities have banned Beijing residents from flying model or remote-control aircraft. Reuters reports that balloons could also be on the government's hit list.
  • The unlucky words "die", "death" and "down" appear to have been 'banned' from songs on television, according to a post by a Chinese composer reported on Asia One.
  • Trucks carrying toxic chemicals have been forbidden from the city. Cooking knives have vanished from shops.

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