State Security Clears the Hall -- The Olympics Syndrome (2)
At certain critical historical junctures, China is prone to a phenomenon known as "clearing the hall."
Late at night on April 5, 1976, during a large gathering of Beijing residents laying wreaths at Tiananmen Square for deceased Premier Zhou Enlai, the authorities suddenly switched on the floodlights and announced a clearing of the area. More than 10,000 police and troops rushed in and began beating, driving out and detaining citizens.
A similar sequence of events transpired at Tiananmen Square in the early hours of June 4, 1989, with hundreds of students and citizens falling before tanks and troops.
On March 14, 2008, tens of thousands of police and soldiers moved in on protesters in Lhasa, beating and detaining protesting citizens and lamas, and harassing and driving out foreign journalists.
Now, on the eve of the Olympics, a similar clearing of the hall is taking place on an even larger scale as the entire city of Beijing is relieved of its undesirables. The clearance this time is being driven by the State Security Bureau and the People's Armed Police. Beijing's streets are festooned with banners proclaiming, "Employ extraordinary measures to ensure the security of the Olympics." The slogan brings to mind the notorious book "Unrestricted Warfare," published by two PLA colonels in 1999. A grand sports occasion is leading to a period of martial law and wartime atmosphere similar to that experienced in Beijing in 1989.
It looks as if the Chinese Communist Party members are made of "special stuff" that leads them to do things in just the opposite way to normal people. We notice that 2008 has presented the Chinese government with the opportunity to demonstrate its special talent for "turning mourning into celebration" and "turning joyous occasions into times of mourning," first with the Wenchuan earthquake and now with the Olympics.
The international community has taken to describing the atmosphere preceding the Beijing Olympics with the terms "jitters and qualms." In order to ensure a safe and stable Olympics, the authorities have deployed 11 regiments of People's Armed Police, more than 60,000 Beijing police officers, and on concerns that even these forces might prove inadequate, tens of thousands more police officers and soldiers from outside provinces, under three levels of command. They have formulated detailed plans and preparations for a "peaceful Olympics operation" in three stages. The first stage, from January to May, was designated for improvement and rectification. June and July make up the consolidation and prevention stage, and the third stage from July to August, while the Olympics are actually ongoing, is dedicated to strict precautions and unyielding defense. Even the terms used suggest the language of war.
Since the beginning of the year, the authorities have been rounding up and expelling hundreds of thousands of penniless petitioners and migrant workers. They have used coercive methods such as cutting off water and electricity and even physical abuse to accomplish their goal, and have destroyed all kinds of underground structures and shacks. At the same time, they have detained, banished or controlled dissidents, Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. Notable examples include the imprisonment of Hu Jia, the permanent expulsion of Li Jianhong, taking Du Daobin back into custody, restricting Wen Kejian and deporting Zhao Dagong.
The authorities act as if confronting a mortal enemy in fierce battle. Three "lines of defense" have been erected within Beijing, and the city has been placed under full surveillance since July 20. Other measures include restricting operation of motor vehicles with odd and even license numbers on alternate days, setting up special Olympics motorways, halting operation of cement work and other engineering projects, banning flights in and out of Beijing during the Olympics opening ceremony, implementing "blue sky" days in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong and Shanghai, double security checks at the airports, checking names of ticketed passengers on vehicles and vessels entering Beijing, police vehicular spot checks, and large-scale interrogation and examination of passengers and staff of vehicles entering Beijing. Non-Beijing residents are obliged to carry at least two forms of identification on their persons at all times. Even on the outskirts of Beijing, teams of villagers wearing red security armbands are stationed at the entrance to each village, with ropes drawn across the road to stop vehicles and pedestrians for questioning before admittance. Beijing's electrical power suppliers have stationed personnel on 24-hour watch beneath each high-voltage electrical tower to ensure there is no interruption of the power supply.