As China prepares to hold a much-anticipated third party plenum in Beijing on Nov. 9-12, police, firemen, and other officials are raising security precautions to high alert, visiting subway and train stations, inspecting vehicle registrations, and ensuring fire exits are unobstructed.
Meanwhile, a series of bombs were set off in front of a provincial government office, killing one and injuring eight on Nov. 6 in Taiyuan, Shanxi, some 400 kilometers from the capital. “The accident is suspected to be caused by self-made bombs as steel beads were scattered at the scene,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
That comes just one week after a jeep crashed and burst into flames in Tiananmen Square, killing its three passengers and two more tourists, in what China’s security chief, Meng Jianzhu, on Oct. 31 called a “violent terrorist attack.”
A year ago, in the runup to the 18th Party Congress, Beijing officials ordered taxi drivers to disable the windows of their vehicles to prevent troublemakers from distributing antiparty leaflets, possibly via balloons or hollowed out ping-pong balls. Less bizarre but still dramatic, the minister of public security has made unannounced, after-hours visits to Beijing subway stations to check on safety precautions, Bloomberg News reported on Nov. 6.
“The Party’s third plenum is approaching, Beijing and surrounding regions must earnestly carry out our program ‘Beijing Security Moat,’ leaving no dead corners or blind areas,” said Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun while visiting surprised subway police officers and commuters in the Tiananmen East subway station, according to a statement by the ministry on Tuesday. (The expression Beijing Security Moat was also used in a Xinhua article a year ago, referring to security preparations for the party congress.)
And a week ago, Guo’s ministry pledged to do its best to prevent any major fires breaking out in Beijing or other cities across the country during the upcoming party meeting. “Fire control and security during the session are the top priority,” said a separate statement by the ministry, reported Xinhua on Oct. 31.
The Beijing fire department must carefully monitor the session venue (the meeting is expected to be held in the Jingxi Hotel in west Beijing, as in previous plenums). At the same time, it should “step up security checks on key institutions such as water and power supply” and “closely monitor venues where crowds gather, such as department stores, theaters, stations, hospitals, and factories,” the ministry statement said.
Meanwhile, railway police in the central city of Xiangyang, Hubei, have been ordered to ensure that criminals and those with explosives don’t travel on trains, according to a Nov. 4 report by China Economic Net, and traffic police in the northeastern city of Changchun are stepping up efforts to ensure there are no road accidents. The aim: to “create a good transportation environment for the party meeting,” according to the Changchun traffic police microblog, Bloomberg News reported.
The fight against terrorism is “grim” and “complicated,” commented Minister Guo on his recent tour of Beijing subway stations.