Xinhua News Agency

Foreign 'spies' barred from espionage museum

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am

A shiny new museum beckons visitors to the heart of a Nanjing park, but some tourists may find they have made a wasted trip.

'Sorry, you can't come in,' a smiling attendant said when this South China Morning Post reporter tried to step through the doorway this week. 'You have to be Chinese.'

This is Jiangsu National Security Education Centre - essentially a museum on spying - formally opened this month with great fanfare in the leafy Yuhuatai ('rain flower podium') park in the south of the provincial capital city. Xinhua reported at the time that entry to the country's first 'standalone' centre for teaching about national security and patriotic education was 'free to the whole public'.

However, it seems there is no plan to spread the message to non-nationals - perhaps due to concerns that potential spies might spot something sensitive in the public exhibits. My attempts to gain access using my journalist card fell on deaf ears, and the attendant turned me away. 'This is the rule. I don't know the reason why,' she said. 'I think it has something to do with national security.'

One of two large signs in highly polished brass frames beside the entrance confirmed this, proclaiming in large letters: 'This exhibition service is available ONLY to PRC citizens.' The message is also printed in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The second sign reminds visitors of the 'right nationality' not to shout, shove, spit, smoke or scatter rubbish in the museum. Unauthorised photography or videoing are also disallowed. It also states that the 'inappropriately dressed or inebriated' will be denied entry to the museum.

A plain-clothes security guard outside the building, who would only give his surname as Ji, said he had been into the exhibit, but he was cagey about what was on display. 'There isn't really anything so special in there,' he said.

A group of giggling young women from Luoyang in Henan province coming out of the centre were able to shed a little light on the mystery. 'The middle of the hall looks down onto a giant model of the globe and the ceiling is painted to look like a starry sky,' one of them said. 'There is also a model of Tiananmen Square, but that was about it.'