A poster celebrating the Communist Party's 18th congress. Photo posted on Weibo.
Chinese authorities aren’t kidding around when it comes to security measures for the Communist Party’s 18th congress, which begins Thursday in Beijing. During this once-in-a-decade event, where the party’s new leaders will be named, Beijing residents are facing a host of bizarre restrictions.
They can no longer buy kitchen knives, nor buy remote-controlled planes without registering them. And many taxi drivers, who have been told not to open their windows or doors if they pass by “important venues,” have also been forced to take off their passenger-side window handles. According to some reports
, this last measure is intended to prevent passengers from throwing leaflets out of taxis. Last but not least, Chinese police have reportedly
asked pigeons owners to keep their birds cooped up during the congress.
Chinese social networking site Weibo has been abuzz with reaction to these stringent rules; many users have posted photos of shop signs explaining the bans and of hastily-removed taxi window handles. The search term “18th Congress” has been censored on Weibo, but users are getting around this ban by using characters that sound like “congress.”
This sign says: "Anyone who buys mini-aircraft, register your real name in our store, please."
"Apology: All knives suspend sales during the 18th Congress."
"Online, many people find these measures excessive, and poke fun at them"
Sui (not his real name) is a university student who lives in China.
This Congress is crucial to the party’s image, so the Communist Party is going overboard to make sure nothing unexpected will happen. The newspapers are full of talk about ‘welcoming the 18th Congress’ and ‘defending the 18th congress’ – defending it against what is unclear, but they seem to have lots of imaginary enemies. What the newspapers don’t talk about much is the extreme security measures taken to protect this Congress; however, plenty of people are talking about it online. Many find these measures excessive, and poke fun at them.
Such measures are not unprecedented – during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, sales of kitchen knives were restricted. This also happened during the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
I believe the authorities are once again showing their paranoia. The Communist party’s foundation will not easily be shaken by a few people throwing leaflets or even wielding knives.
Above: a window handle has been taken out. Below: automatic window controls have been taped over. Photos like these, reportedly taken in taxis in Beijing, have been flooding Chinese social networking sites over the past few days.
This "contract" has also been circulating on Chinese networking sites. According to reports, some taxi drivers have been asked to have their passengers sign this. It reads: "1. The passenger must wear their seatbelts. 2. The passenger should avoid going to important road sections, such as Tiananmen Square, if possible. If passing through important road sections, doors and windows must be closed. 3. The route is decided by the passenger; the passenger holds all responsibility for any consequences."
A newspaper makes fun of the knife sale ban. Image posted on Weibo.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure.