Securing the Olympics

Eric Setzekorn shares what he is seeing on the ground in Beijing, from The China Beat blog:

More than any state-of-the-art sports complex or amazing athletic performance, many visitors will remember the Beijing Olympics as the world’s largest security event. In an effort to squelch any sort of protest or more serious terrorist act the government has instituted strict new rules and enforced many existing but hitherto disregarded laws. Estimates of total security personnel range from 250,000 to 500,000, depending on the criteria, but visitors should be either alarmed or comforted to know their every action is monitored and scrutinized.

The epicenter for Olympic security is Tiananmen Square. Since 1989 and even more so since the Falun Gong crackdown, Tiananmen Square has boasted a comprehensive security plan based on numerous security cameras backed by scores of uniformed and plainclothes police. New checkpoints have been established at all entrances to the Square and are equipped with larger than average cameras, most likely biometric scanners, and all bags are thoroughly searched. The level of scrutiny is high–after inspecting not only my bag but a folder of articles inside, I was asked by the polite but stern officer why I carried several papers regarding Chinese politics.

…Most housing areas have installed gates manned 24 hours a day to separate residents from any potential guests who must proceed to the local police station for a temporary residence permit. Large police sweeps of twenty to thirty officers going through housing blocks for any unauthorized visitors seem mainly to inconvenience the large floating Korean student population in the Haidian district and stops landlords from renting apartments at huge mark-ups for the month of August.

While there is clearly a need for a comprehensive and large security presence at obvious targets during the Olympics, for many visitors the true symbols of the Beijing’s Games could be the 6th and 7th Fuwas, JingJing and ChaCha (jingcha being the Chinese word for police).

July 26, 2008, 9:54 PM
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