Small bags overlooked in security checks for bus passengers on Hebei border

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2008, 12:00am

The so-called air-tight security checks at the Beijing-Hebei boundary appear focused on checking passengers rather than their belongings, in what has been touted as a front line in the fight against terrorists and dangerous items entering the capital ahead of next month's Games.

At a security checkpoint in the Shijiazhuang long-distance bus station last Thursday afternoon, passengers heading to Beijing were asked to put their bags through a scanner. But smaller bags and some backpacks were allowed through without being checked.

Police officers seemed to focus their attention on checking people's tickets and the scanner monitors, rather than looking at what people were carrying.

A male passenger in his 20s walked through to the waiting area without putting his backpack through the scanner. He only realised the fact when he was ready to board his bus.

'I just forgot to scan it and nobody asked me to,' he said. 'I'm not a bad guy, though, so there's nothing to worry about.'

Police at the checkpoint said they were going out of their way to check everything because a tracking system during the Olympic Games could trace any officer who failed to stop a criminal entering Beijing.

'All the police involved in the security area, from here to where an incident happens, will be held responsible if a criminal sneaks in. Nobody can afford to make mistakes,' an officer said.

At least three times before leaving the station, the driver of the express bus to Beijing asked the seven passengers on board to ensure they had their identification cards with them.

'I tell you, it's going to be a big problem for all of us if you don't have your ID cards,' the driver said.

The driver, who usually picks up more passengers near where the highway to Beijing starts, had clearly been told not to let anyone else on board after leaving the station or let anyone get off before arriving at the final destination. On Wednesday, the bus was stuck at a checkpoint at the Beijing boundary for three hours because two passengers had old ID cards, which do not work on the scanning machines.

'They could create a whole new type of terrorist by checking us like this,' the driver complained.

On Thursday, traffic on the highway was surprisingly smooth thanks to a revised rule ordering police to ensure smooth traffic flows while checking passengers and vehicles.

All passengers were ordered to disembark at a checkpoint on the Hebei side of the border, go through a metal-detector and put their bags through a scanner again. All seven passengers on the bus had second-generation ID cards, which allowed officers to check them quickly.

But passengers could easily have left their bags on the bus to stop them being scanned again.

The man who took his backpack onto the bus without it being checked in Shijiazhuang could easily have taken his bag to Beijing without it being scanned once.

As the bus arrived at the Liuliqiao bus station in the west of Beijing, all large bags had to go through a scanner for a third time, but smaller ones were still largely ignored.