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Beware of balls with slogans: Chinese authority to drivers

The security lockdown ordered over Beijing for next week’s 18th National Congress for the Communist Party of China (CPC) is reasonably literal for the city’s taxi services. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Nov 01, 2012 18:43 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The security lockdown ordered over Beijing for next week’s 18th National Congress for the Communist Party of China (CPC) is reasonably literal for the city’s taxi services.

Taxi owners and drivers -- by some estimates over 67000 ply the city’s roads – have been directed to seal the rear windows to prevent passengers from distributing anti-government leaflets.

According to a copy of the instructions distributed, drivers have also been asked to be alert about passengers carrying any kind of “balls” or “balloons”.

They are also being offered “rewards” for informing the authorities about anything that could affect “public stability.”

Report any information that could affect public stability in a timely fashion. The public security corps will reward those who notify public security messengers.

“During the 18th Party Congress period, taxicab drivers are to be on guard for passengers carrying any type of ball. Look for passengers who intend to spread messages by carrying balloons that bear slogans or ping-pong balls bearing reactionary messages,” read a memo circulating on domestic twitter-like services; it’s authenticity couldn’t be independently verified.

Under the guidelines, titled “zero spread” requirements for taxis, drivers were directed that “during the 18th Party Congress period, taxicab drivers are to “seal the door” and “seal the windows.” “Seal the door” by activating child safety locks on the doors. “Seal the windows” by removing window cranks.”

The orders were circulated soon after the date of the Congress was announced but the careful details have only become public.

Drivers have been asked to frequently inspect the “inside and outside of their vehicles in order to ensure lawbreakers have not affixed reactionary materials or messages to the vehicle.”

A taxi driver from Xinyue Lianhe taxi company, surnamed Wang, told the state-run Global Times earlier this week that he was informed of the regulation at his company's monthly meeting on October 13.

The notice was issued by the Transportation Administration of Beijing under the Municipal Commission of Transport, he said.

"The company management said at the meeting that in the past, some passengers had thrown leaflets out of the taxi window, or inserted leaflets into ping-pong balls and threw them out, or would let go of a balloon which had leaflets tied to it," he said.

Besides locking up taxis, the sale of remote controlled toy planes and helicopters has been restricted. The Global Times quoted a police officer from Aoyuncun station in Chaoyang district as saying that people wanting to buy model planes during the congress should go to the vendor's local police station to register. When the buyer receives approval from the station's police chief, he can make the purchase, the officer said.

They won't be allowed to fly model planes in the city anyway. Balloons also are on the blacklist, the newspaper said. The report cited another officer from Chaoyang district Public Security Bureau as saying that pigeon owners must keep their birds in their coops during the Congress.

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