Tighter security for Congress, worse time for dissidents
Beijing is being done up for the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) beginning on November 8. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.world Updated: Oct 31, 2012 02:21 IST
Beijing is being done up for the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) beginning on November 8. Its broad avenues have been cleaned up and new road rules will be in place from Thursday for smooth traffic flow during the meetings. The world famous Tiananmen Square has been covered with dazzling bouquets of red flowers.
But behind all the beauty lies the burden of ensuring tight security and Beijing is not very likely to take any chances.Among those who are likely to be impacted are the known dissidents, rights groups have said, adding stricter measures have already been implemented further curtailing their freedom.
There has been no official announcement about the number of security personnel deployed in Beijing but their presence has perceptibly increased on the roads and around neighbourhoods. On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government initiated an emergency response program, asking departments to ensure water, electricity, gas, transportation and fire control services in case of an emergency.
The program requires emergency response teams to restore normal operations within 15 minutes in case of an emergency, state media reported. Vehicles carrying toxic chemicals will not be allowed to enter the municipality from November 1 to 18.
The municipal fire department started a campaign in mid-October to check and remove fire risks at venues that will serve the Congress and the central government compound, besides hotels, hospitals, schools, markets, stores, cinemas, clubs and Internet cafes.
“Services for every post and section should be assured so as to ensure a successful Congress,” Guo Jinlong, secretary, CPC Beijing Municipal Committee told state media. But Beijing will be worried about any show of dissidence during the Congress.
That’s exactly what rights groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) fear and called on the government last week to end the “unlawful house arrest” of dissidents. Giving the example of Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist, HRW said in recent weeks he has been prevented from leaving his home for even essential functions except for getting medical care.
“The hardening of the harsh measures taken against Hu Jia may be a sign of what lies ahead for other activists as the 18th Party Congress approaches,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.