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When Beijing turned into a city of tanks

“Sorry, I cannot deliver your dinner,” said the Indian restaurant manager on Sunday night in Beijing. “Dozens of military tanks and rocket launchers are passing by”, Reshma Patil writes.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2009 02:30 IST
Reshma Patil

“Sorry, I cannot deliver your dinner,” said the Indian restaurant manager on Sunday night in Beijing. “Dozens of military tanks and rocket launchers are passing by”.

Tanks have not rolled down China’s capital since 1999, but night-time tank sightings are now the talk of town as Beijing rehearses for its biggest-ever military parade. On October 1, the People’s Republic of China will celebrate its 60th birthday with a coming-out party for its latest weapons funded by a double-digit defence budget.

The Chinese media has reported that five new indigenously designed missiles never shown before, including intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, will also be rolled out.

Most Beijingers are preparing to watch the parade only on television. Residents in hotels and apartments along the route have reportedly been told not to step out even on balconies on October 1.

All routes to Beijing from the surrounding provinces will be guarded to form a ‘security moat’. Petitioners in other provinces have been told not to come to Beijing with protest applications.

About a million volunteers will join armed police to patrol the streets for security. Taxi drivers have been told to report ‘suspicious’ passengers and the police are going door-to-door checking foreigners’ documents.

For two days around October 1, hotels along the avenue leading to Tiananmen Square will be reserved for official guests and not tourists. In several restaurants, rooftop meals are temporarily unavailable.

During the Sunday military rehearsal, this correspondent walked to fetch dinner only to be stopped by dozens of policemen and tape blocking the road under a new 73-storey skyscraper. The policemen suggested I return the next morning.

The restaurant manager called and suggested I take the patli galli (narrow back alley) to takeaway dinner. I found the patli galli — and several efficient policemen guarding even that little dark lane.

Beijing was never as safe.