Beidaihe meeting

Security in full swing in Beidaihe as resort awaits VIPs

Business as usual at resort, with sniffer dogs and plain-clothes guards patrolling beaches

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 10:45am

The hustle and bustle of the "summer summit" is back in the seaside town of Beidaihe.

Punters had questioned whether this year's meeting would be suspended as part of the austerity drive ushered in by President Xi Jinping.

They might feel safer and privileged by keeping these cleaner areas to themselves, but how about the dirty water people like us have to share

But all the usual signs of the secretive meeting - from tightened security to watchful eyes guarding exclusive beaches and estates - suggest that it will be business as usual.

The Beidaihe summit is a series of informal behind-closed-door discussions involving the top echelon of the Communist Party and elders from earlier generations of leaders at which key strategies are rolled out.

It has taken place almost every year since the late 1950s, though there have been suspensions. This year, sniffer dog teams have been patrolling facilities, including public toilets and shops inside the railway station.

Identification must be shown along the only two roads leading into the resort area.

Once inside Beidaihe, there is a noticeable police presence everywhere. Officers stand at 50-metre intervals guarding the length of Dongjing Road, the main road through the town.

A police officer who declined to be named said he had been assigned from Qinhuangdao city's Haigang district at the start of the month and might have to stay until the end of August. It is his third year in a row on duty at the event.

Further down towards the beach is Zhonghaitan Road, where plain-clothes security guards patrol the waterfront.

An exclusive beach separated from the crowded public beach by metal mesh netting is guarded by paramilitary officers who from time to time tell curious tourists to move on.

Inside the quieter and much cleaner off-limits beach, plain-clothes guards monitor the water with binoculars even though the area is practically empty.

Across the road, limousines with tinted windows are occasionally seen as they whisk guards into gated estate villas.

Out-of-town visitors are surprised by the sheer number of reserved beaches and estates in Beidaihe, where nearly every central government agency has either a hotel, sanatorium or recreation facility - even the party mouthpiece People's Daily has a "training centre" in the town.

Chen Chen, a local beachgoer, said it was no secret top leaders from Beijing met in the town every summer.

But he has never bumped into one because so many areas in the district are off-limits to people like him.

He said that while locals have got used to the heavy police presence in summer, they are dismayed that so many areas are closed to ordinary people.

"They might feel safer and privileged by keeping these cleaner areas to themselves, but how about the dirty water people like us have to share?" he asked, pointing to the grey seawater.

Sun Baocheng, the owner of a small family hotel, said the strong police presence during summer was good for his business because it kept crime low.

"You don't need to worry about being robbed on the street or scared walking alone at night," he said.