Security in high gear as Beijing locks down for Communist Party congress

Subway stations impose more checks and bars go quiet, promising to reopen at the end of the month

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 9:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 11:26pm

Beijing has redoubled security on public transport and bars have closed suddenly to “prepare for Halloween” as the capital counts down the last days to the start of the Communist Party’s five-yearly national congress.

State television said more than 2,000 party delegates from across China have converged on the capital for the meeting, which is due to begin on Wednesday and is expected to go for about a week.

Many bars and clubs, most of them in Beijing’s nightlife district of Sanlitun, announced they would be closed for about 10 days from this week, with some citing “force majeure” and others promising to reopen in time for Halloween at the end of the month.

Among those suspending operations over the period are nightclubs Circle Club and Sir Teen, both in Sanlitun.

Vics, another well-known club near the Worker’s Stadium, said it would be closed for renovations to prepare for Halloween on October 31.

By Sunday night, most major live music venues in the capital had announced a suspension of business between Monday and October 25.

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Modernista, a live music bar in downtown Beijing, said in an online post that its suspension was “due to security measures taken during the upcoming Chinese national congress”. It would reopen “for a fantastic Halloween weekend”, it said.

Meanwhile, subway commuters might have to head out earlier on Tuesday as all stations step up security.

In addition to checks on their bags, all passengers would be subject to security scans, the city’s subway management company said.

The added measures were tested at the Longze station in Beijing’s suburbs on Monday, videos and pictures posted online showed hundreds of people queuing outside station entrances during the morning rush hour.

Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corporation said security would be upgraded at all stations from Tuesday and passengers were advised to avoid rush hours and carrying liquids.

In the past, security scans of both luggage and passengers took place at only a handful of key stations in the central business district.

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In a meeting in July, Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun urged all provincial police chiefs to proactively step up security checks around the party congress and “nip threats in the bud”.

Party mouthpieces continued to drum up the authorities’ achievements, with People’s Daily and the PLA Daily running six-page reports on key political events since last party congress in late 2012.

No date has been announced for the end of the congress but a spokesman for the event is expected to release further details of arrangements on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping, who is also the party’s general secretary, will deliver a report on his vision for the party over the next five years.