China elections: Change of guard

2012-11-03 15:54

Potentially sinister threats to China’s ruling Communist Party sit unnoticed in cages perched on a rooftop above a small alleyway in southwestern Beijing: pigeons.

China’s rulers have combed through a list of possible threats ahead of their 18th national congress, which starts on Thursday.

Their list includes balloons, remote-controlled model planes and handles for rear windows in taxis to stop subversive leaflets from being scattered on the streets.

The goal is to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to his anointed successor, Vice-President Xi Jinping, at the congress.

Li Zhonghe (65), a retired construction worker, told Reuters he would have to keep his 40 to 50 pigeons in their coops when the congress starts.

“There are currently extra restrictions, so we are not supposed to let the pigeons out to fly,” Li said, adding he did not know why. “It’s this way every time there is a congress. I’m accustomed to it.”

As unlikely as it seems, pigeons, often raised as a hobby in China, have been used as a tool of subversion before. In the late 1990s, dissidents released pigeons carrying slogans written on ribbons tied to the birds’ feet in southern China.

At least Beijing’s new knife policy seems a little more understandable.

An employee at Carrefour, the French grocery chain, told Time magazine that her store in the city’s Chaoyang district was instructed not to sell knives a few days ago. She did not know when the ban would be lifted.

Stability is the watchword this month, as it is before every important meeting, and some of the preparations for the congress resemble past precautions.

But Hu Jia, a dissident who was made to leave Beijing ahead of the congress, said the measures taken this time were the most excessive he had seen.

Taxi drivers were instructed recently by their companies to remove handles from rear windows. A driver said his company also advised him to keep
the windows closed when his taxi passes by Tiananmen Square.

Another driver said: “We were asked not to take petitioners to government buildings, but we should take them straight to the police office instead.”

The congress, which takes place every five years, is a magnet for thousands of petitioners across China who see the meeting as a rare chance to seek redress.

More than 1.4 million people have fanned out across Beijing to boost security, the Beijing News reported.

Residents have complained of snail-paced internet speeds as censors comb though sites to remove subversive content.

Authorities have banned the words “death”, “die” or “down” from songs on TV.

In addition, at least 130 people have been detained or placed under restrictions since September, according to UK-based rights group Amnesty International.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.