18th Party Congress

Security tightened in Beijing as 18th party congress approaches

Residents of Beijing are feeling the effects of the upcoming party meeting, with ban on open taxi windows and the sale of knives

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 7:22am

The final meeting of the Communist Party's outgoing Central Committee opened at the Jingxi Hotel in Beijing amid tight security yesterday.

The suburban location was heavily guarded by both police and security personnel.

The meeting will finalise preparations for the once-in-a-decade leadership transition in a week's time. Ahead of that, Beijingers have received instructions about how to behave and to ensure there is no spreading of subversive leaflets. Taxis have removed window handles.

Behind closed doors, about 370 members and alternate members of the Central Committee are discussing a draft revision of the party constitution and a report to be delivered by the party's general secretary, Hu Jintao, at the opening of the party's 18th national congress on November 8.

They are also expected to announce the expulsion of disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai from the Central Committee.

So far there has been no official announcement about what had been discussed at the committee's meeting or when it will end. Analysts believe it will last for three to four days because Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Laos on Monday.

Those living near the Jingxi Hotel could clearly feel the pressure of the meeting.

One food delivery worker said he was told by police to deliver as much food as possible in one go to local grocery stores, so he would not have to return to the area often. A convenience store owner said she was told to watch out for strangers.

Online postings also complained about the extreme security measures in the capital. Some postings said taxi drivers had been told to remove window handles and require passengers to sign a "travelling agreement" promising to avoid sensitive parts of the city and not to open their windows or doors if they passed "important venues".

A man who answered the phone at the Wan Quan Si taxi company in the south of the capital said the rules applied to all taxi companies in Beijing. He declined to give his name.

Liu Shi, a client manager in a mass communication company, wrote in a microblog that his taxi driver told him electronic windows would also be disabled.

A memo circulating on Sina Weibo warned taxi drivers to be on guard against passengers who might want to release balloons with slogans or throw "ping pong balls with reactionary words". It was unclear who issued the memo or if it was authentic.

Meanwhile, in an apparent move to dispel rumours that Mao Zedong Thought will be played down in Hu's report to the congress, Mao's daughter Li Na and her husband, Wang Jingqing , made a rare public appearance at an exhibition in Beijing - the second appearance by a Mao family member since the rumours began. Two weeks ago, Mao's nephew Mao Yuanxin inspected work on a water transfer project.