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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jitters on display as China tightens Tiananmen security

Happy June everyone. Trust the year has been treating us all well. Here's something from the AFP. It is interesting to observe how China today is quite happy to do what it she wishes to do. Something my dad pointed out; what used to be a China is affected by the rest of the world, is now a China that affects the rest of the world.


Jitters on display as China tightens Tiananmen security
June 2, 2009
Source - The Age

China ramped up security at Tiananmen Square days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on demonstrations there, questioning visitors and blocking journalists trying to report yesterday.

The dramatically tightened controls appeared to reflect official fears of any attempts to commemorate the bloody crackdown that ended seven weeks of pro-democracy protests, leaving hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead.

The square is already one of the most closely watched public spaces in the world but controls were noticeably more stringent yesterday.

Dozens of police and other security personnel patrolled on foot and in vehicles amid scattered Chinese tourists taking snapshots of the iconic portrait of revolutionary founder Mao Zedong that overlooks the square.

Security personnel also stopped groups of pedestrians on side streets approaching the square, questioning them and inspecting their belongings.

"There has been a change. You can feel it," said a guard at a traffic crossing next to the square.

China's leadership sent People's Liberation Army soldiers to forcibly clear the square on the night of June 3-4, 1989. Those events remain a taboo subject in China.

Some of the most prominent Tiananmen dissidents have already reported increased restrictions on their activities as Thursday's anniversary neared, with some even being taken out of the capital.

Police were seen yesterday stopping a film crew from Spanish television network TVE and asking them to leave the square.

"They said we could not interview anybody or do any filming and that we had to leave," Rosa Mollo, the network's China bureau chief, said.

An AFP journalist had been allowed to film on the square just last week.

Police asked for the identification of an AFP journalist and said interviewing square visitors was not allowed. A police van then followed him around the square.

At one point, about two dozen armed soldiers were seen marching into the square from a side entrance.

The heavy security extended into adjacent neighbourhoods where much of the worst violence on the night of June 3-4 was reported.

An AFP reporter saw dozens of police vehicles lining side streets while uniformed and plainclothes security forces loitered around in groups, sharing bottles of water and seeking shade under a hot midday sun.