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China Tightens Security Ahead of Power Transfer

  • VOA News

Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, Premier Wen Jiabao, left, and Vice President Xi Jinping, in Beijing, (May 4, 2012 file photo)

Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, Premier Wen Jiabao, left, and Vice President Xi Jinping, in Beijing, (May 4, 2012 file photo)

Chinese authorities are tightening security in Beijing as the city prepares to host the Communist Party's 18th National Congress that will usher in the next generation of leaders.

State media are reporting increased police patrols and security checks around the capital. The Xinhua news agency says police are forming a "security belt" around Beijing to help ensure stability. The city's police chief recently told reporters that authorities are prepared to take "tough" measures "to create a harmonious and stable social environment" for the sensitive conference.

Beijing has not yet revealed the date of the congress. Though many have speculated it will take place in September or October, Xinhua only says it will be "in the latter half of this year."

At the conference, senior party leaders will reveal who they have chosen to fill the country's top governing bodies, the 25-member Politburo and its nine-member Standing Committee. Earlier this month, Communist leaders held a secretive meeting at the coastal resort town of Beidaihe, where they reportedly put their finishing touches on the tightly orchestrated once-a-decade transition process.

Observers say this year's leadership transition is especially sensitive for Communist leaders, who are dealing with consequences of the downfall of Bo Xilai, a disgraced Politburo member who was once a rising star in Chinese politics. Earlier this week, Bo's wife was convicted of murdering a British businessman over a failed financial deal. Bo himself has been stripped of his titles and is under investigation for corruption.

In addition to the increased police presence, observers say that foreign and domestic news reports, as well as other online conversations, have been more closely monitored by government censors in an effort to enforce calm ahead of the event.

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