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Life under a security sweep

world Updated: Jul 17, 2009 01:44 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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In Beijing, we are counting days for October 1 to pass-by, for return to business as usual.

On Thursday, Beijing released growth figures that indicated China is recovering faster than any major economy with 7.9 per cent growth in the second quarter. But next to the recession and recovery, the talking point in Beijing's business community is the indirect impact of the stepped-up security from June to October.

On October 1, China will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic with its first military parade and weapons display since 1999. Last month in Beijing, 3,000 commandos took a public oath to safeguard the anniversary celebration. “Vigilant guard around Tiananmen Square at that time will absolutely be harsher than early this month,’’ the China Daily quoted a top public security official saying in June.

The July 5 ethnic riots in northwest Xinjiang that killed 192 and injured over 1,000, have heightened Beijing’s fears of protests planned around the anniversary.

This week, Beijing released new accountability rules warning officials that they would be sacked if they ‘incorrectly’ handled a public protest.

The Public Security Bureau is again knocking on the doors of Beijing offices and residential areas. Securing business visas before October is becoming uncertain as visa policies are more strictly enforced.

China provides super-fast broadband to its world’s largest online population but Internet censorship is now wider than before. Networking sites including Facebook and Twitter that are usually blocked for a few days during politically sensitive periods, are indefinitely inaccessible since the riots.

Ahead of the Olympics this time last year, Chinese visas were hard to get and hotels saw shrinking business when they had hoped for a boom. Traders stopped coming and several professionals packed-up because resident permits were not renewed. Then the recession struck and both professionals and tourists stopped coming to China in large numbers.

Now the economy is growing, but the Olympics-style security blanket is coming back.