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China mobilises civilians for safe Olympics

Stating terrorism will be the biggest threat to the Olympics, China mobilises civilians to be out on the streets from August 8-24 to report suspicious behaviour, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Jun 20, 2008 23:26 IST
Reshma Patil

Less than 50 days before the Olympics open in Beijing, China's one lakh strong anti-terror force of commandos and police is on high alert.

China has said that terrorism will be the biggest threat to the Olympics, and it has mobilised masses of ordinary citizens, the elderly and collegians to be out on the streets from August 8-24 to report suspicious behaviour. There will be as many security officials in uniform and plainclothes as the estimated five lakh visitors and athletes.

“The force of the police is limited, but the force of the people is limitless,” Ma Zhenchuan, Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, was quoted saying in the State-run Xinhua agency on Thursday. “The people are the backing of the security work for the Games.”

About 1.5 lakh security personnel and almost three lakh volunteers will patrol the capital on safety checks. Over 7,300 collegians have been trained and tested to conduct security checks at sports venues. Foreign residents are being randomly checked on the streets and in expat apartments, for residency permits. Security checks at bars and nightclubs are being conducted daily, especially near the sports venues.

From June 11 to 14, anti-terrorist drills called the Great Wall5 were conducted in Beijing for the police, the army and civic authorities to prepare for a potential hijacking of athletes' buses to chemical attacks.

“Experiences of past Games show that terrorist attacks may occur before the Games, so our anti-terrorist forces have been in action ahead of the opening ceremony,” Liu Shaowu, security director of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games told Xinhua.

Liu said there are over 52 schemes and 500 security plans in place. Screens at the Olympic security command center will show the location and card number of each policeman, said Xinhua.

Foreign tourist arrivals for January-May have declined for the first time since 2005, as visa applications get more cumbersome. From June 1 to October 31, the postal department has suspended the mailing of liquid items. Sniffer dogs prowl subway stations, and even water bottles carried by commuters are being checked. Public transport users will increase by 4.5 million people per day during the Olympics.