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China Tightens Beijing Security Ahead of Olympics


China is making every effort to provide adequate security for the Olympic games. The aim is apparently to prevent disruptions - domestic or international - from marring what the Chinese government sees as an opportunity to make a huge splash on the world stage. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Thousands of people visit Tiananmen Square every day. More than one million visitors are expected to pass through the square during the Olympics.

The heavy presence of uniformed security officers there does not bother these American tourists.

"Yeah, [there is] heightened security for the Olympics. That obviously makes sense. I went to the Olympic Village yesterday, and it was on lockdown. It was like Fort Knox. But I guess that is to be expected," says one tourist.

Security for games is top priority

With so many world leaders, international athletes and global celebrities descending on Beijing for the Olympics, it is not surprising security is tight.

Thousands of hidden cameras help authorities keep watch for illegal activity. More than 100,000 police and paramilitary troops have been deployed throughout the city.

Surface to air missiles guard some of the Olympic venues.

Security guards screen passengers on Beijing's extensive subway system, according to the Beijing Subway Company's Jia Peng.

Jia says authorities want to make sure passengers are not carrying prohibited items, such as explosives or poison.

Security measures cause frustration for drivers

At the same time, security checkpoints around the city are causing huge traffic jams.

"Because of the Olympic games, I have had to spend at least two or three hours getting through a checkpoint in order to get into Beijing. This is a very unpleasant Olympic experience for me," complains a driver.

Unrest in provinces also cause for concern

Recent unrest in other parts of China is also adding to the tension in Beijing.

Tens of thousands of people burned a police station in southern Guizhou province, at the end of June, after a young woman was found drowned to death. Her family and supporters say she was raped and killed by relatives of local officials. Official investigations deny those claims and say she committed suicide.

Earlier this year, there were deadly riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, that sparked weeks of unrest in Tibetan communities in China and around the world.

Villager Ge Li talks about how Lhasa has calmed down since the violence there.

Ge says the situation in Lhasa is much better now than during the March 14 riots, when he says things were very bad.

The ensuing Chinese crackdown in Tibet sparked protests that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in some countries.

Chinese authorities on guard for foreign terrorists

The Olympics is the biggest international event China has hosted. Olympic safety chief Liu Shaowu says Chinese authorities are on guard for foreign terrorists.

Liu says terrorists are the common enemies of global society. He says they will come along with the large number of people expected for the Olympics, to try and promote their goals.

He did not specify the threats. But Chinese officials have said they recently foiled Olympics-related plots by Muslim extremists allegedly working with international terrorist groups in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Human rights groups say Beijing is exaggerating the threat in order to crackdown on Uighur Muslims.

During the Olympics, authorities in Beijing will be closely guarding against all threats - foreign and domestic - in an effort to prevent incidents that could mar China's chance to present a grand image to the world.

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