Alex Pasternack: The Great Wall Parade

Alex Pasternack writes for China Beat about watching the National Day parade while being sequestered in a foreigners’ compound in Beijing:

My in the compound would be temporary and voluntary, and merely a side effect of Beijing’s careful preparations for a parade, which allowed for no unauthorized bystanders along its route. But there was something more threatening about these particular rules. A collection of dismal concrete high-rises surrounded by big walls and guards, the compound always had the feeling of a refuge and a kind of prison. To hammer the point home, the parade, I had heard, would be first and foremost a show of China’s military might.

Most of these walls aren’t that hard to climb over. The Manchus invaded. These days, a piece of software, a virtual private network, can let your eyes wander outside China’s nanny internet, to such risque enclaves as Twitter or Youtube.

But there are bigger walls, harder to surmount. The house arrest, the real kind, is a favorite pastime of the Beijing police. They’re always likely to send grim looking men to camp out outside your apartment building if you’re an outspoken AIDS activist or a human rights lawyer, especially when US congressmen are in town, or a sensitive anniversary is approaching.

October 8, 2009, 2:55 PM
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