More than 10000 pigeons were checked and probed for explosives before the birds were released over Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Wednesday to mark China’s National Day celebrations.
The bird release and flag hoisting ceremonies were carried out to mark the 65th National Day at sunrise at the historic Square, witnessed by enthusiastic citizens.
The birds, according to local media reports, were put through rigorous and evidently invasive checks to ensure that they were not being used as messengers of terror.
The announcement about the rather unusual examination of birds was first made by the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) mouthpiece, People’s Daily late on Tuesday night.
“10,000 pigeons go through anal security check for suspicious objects Tue, ready to be released on National Day on Wed,” the newspaper said in the late night Tweet.
Police officer Guo Chunwei told the Chinese newspaper, Beijing Times, checks were carried out under the wings, legs and tail besides the anus of the birds to ensure they were not carrying – presumably unwittingly -- anything suspicious. .
The entire process of checking the birds, according to the newspaper, was video-taped. The tapes were then handed over to the authorities responsible for security during the function.
The vehicles carrying the pigeons were checked; the antecedents of the drivers were verified as well.
Bird associations were given notices six months ago to collect and train pigeons for Wednesday morning’s ceremony.
The vehicles carrying the birds were escorted by half-a-dozen police cars to the Tiananmen Square. According to the newspaper, the vehicles were not allowed to drive at more than 40 km per hour to ensure the birds did not get “motion sickness”.
The timing of the releasing the pigeons were synchronised from different vehicles so that – as per expectation – they fly over the massive Tiananmen Square at the right time and in a preferably joyful pattern.
Security for the event was expected to be tighter this year after following the attack at the Tiananmen Square last October when a van ploughed into tourists in a suicide attack; the government blamed separatists from the restive Xinjiang for the attack.
For the pigeons, however, the extra checks might have come as a shock. Last seen, the birds were flying back as quickly as possible to the warmth of their nests.