China Beat Archive


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July 26, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright July 26, 2008 Eric Setzekorn. Used by permission.


More than any state-of-the-art sports complex or amazing athletic performance, many visitors will remember the Beijing Olympics as the world’s largest security event. In an effort to squelch any sort of protest or more serious terrorist act the government has instituted strict new rules and enforced many existing but hitherto disregarded laws. Estimates of total security personnel range from 250,000 to 500,000, depending on the criteria, but visitors should be either alarmed or comforted to know their every action is monitored and scrutinized.

The epicenter for Olympic security is Tiananmen Square. Since 1989 and even more so since the Falun Gong crackdown, Tiananmen Square has boasted a comprehensive security plan based on numerous security cameras backed by scores of uniformed and plainclothes police. New checkpoints have been established at all entrances to the Square and are equipped with larger than average cameras, most likely biometric scanners, and all bags are thoroughly searched. The level of scrutiny is high–after inspecting not only my bag but a folder of articles inside, I was asked by the polite but stern officer why I carried several papers regarding Chinese politics.

In the square itself much of the large area has been subdivided and occupied with space-filling decorations. A large area of plants and trees has been constructed in the northeastern corner between the Square and Chang’an Avenue. Large barriers block direct line of site from Mao’s Mausoleum toward the Forbidden City. While this ruins much of the stark beauty of the square it makes sense from a security and crowd control perspective.