News / Asia

Amid Heavy Security, China Readies for Leadership Handover

Policemen and members of the Special Weapons and Tactics practice dispersing crowds ahead of next week's 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Zhengzhou, Henan province, October 30, 2012.
Policemen and members of the Special Weapons and Tactics practice dispersing crowds ahead of next week's 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Zhengzhou, Henan province, October 30, 2012.
VOA News
Senior Chinese Communist leaders have gathered amid heavy security for a closed-door meeting in Beijing, where they will put the finishing touches on a once-a-decade leadership handover that officially begins next week.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the final gathering of the Communist Party's 17th Central Committee opened Thursday. The short memo said that changes to the party's constitution and other proposals are being discussed.

The meeting, expected to last for about a week, will likely result in the formal expulsion of disgraced politician and former Politburo member Bo Xilai, who is expected to soon stand trial for corruption and other charges.

It also represents one of the last chances for Communist leaders to haggle over party leadership positions to be unveiled at the 18th Party Congress beginning next Thursday.

Bo's case, along with several other high-profile corruption scandals, have placed Communist leaders on edge ahead of the already sensitive transition, with security being ramped up across the capital. Xinhua says 1.4 million people have volunteered to help police "maintain stability" during the meeting.

Many public events have been cancelled or postponed in Beijing, and some areas have been declared off-limits. Some stores throughout the city have been told not to sell knives, scissors or other potentially dangerous items.

Chen Ziping owns a toy shop in Beijing and says even small, remote-controlled helicopters have been banned.

"This kind of craft cannot fly long distance and it can hardly carry anything," he said. "They just told me to stop selling and I have to follow the order."

Police are carrying out random security checks with increasing frequency.

Rachel Lu is editor of Tea Leaf Nation, a website that monitors Chinese social media. In an interview with VOA, she said that some taxicab drivers have even been instructed to modify their vehicles to ensure that passengers do not use windows to distribute leaflets with what the state calls "adverse information."

"If you're taking a taxi, you'll probably notice that in the back seat where you can roll down the window, the knob has been taken off by order of the police. And the argument from the police apparently is that you can't roll down the window and distribute leaflets," Lu said. "And we're seeing discussed on social media that even if you're sitting in the front seat, the taxi driver is supposed to stop you from rolling down the window to prevent you from distributing a leaflet."

Lu said the massive security lockdown, which Tea Leaf Nation described as "war-like" has prompted complaints on China's microblog Weibo, with many wondering if officials are overreacting.  But much of the reaction has been humorous, she said.

"People are sort of making fun of these measures, and basically asking what are [the authorities] afraid of. And no one knows the answer to that question: why is it so extreme? But I think people are kind of just taking it as it is, kind of making fun of it," said Lu.

But Renne Xia, the international director of a group called Chinese Human Rights Defenders, warned that the crackdown is extremely serious and more pervasive than anything the country has seen before other big political events.
"People being stopped from going outside their homes, traveling to Beijing or Shanghai or the provincial capitals, said Xia. "Lots and lots of petitioners being intercepted."

Two factors appear to be driving the crackdown, said Xia. First, the political corruption scandal surrounding former Politburo member Bo Xilai has exposed the ugly underside of China's internal power struggle.  The other factor, she said, is the use of the Internet, making it quicker and easier for anyone to spread opposing views.

"Certainly, no government today, no matter how organized, intimidating and starting this web crackdown can actually control every expression. There are so many ways online to do this sort of opinion airing."

Xia said its impossible to say whether the Chinese security crackdown will ultimately backfire, but added it shows how scared Communist party officials have become.

As for the security measures themselves, the Communist Party-controlled Global Times acknowledged Thursday  that "some netizens have cast doubts over such keen preparations." But the paper also insisted that any disruptions to daily life are worth the cost of creating a "favorable environment for a smooth Congress."

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Comment Sorting
by: Police Chief David Couper from: USA
November 04, 2012 4:33 PM
The way police throughout the world will be judged in the future is how well they perform as both peacekeeper and protector. So how they respond to public protest is something everyone should be concerned. The goal in every society is to select and train police who are well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, and courteous to every person. For more on this and other important police improvement issues, see “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” ( And my blog at where other current police improvement issues are discussed.

by: Samurai from: Japan
November 02, 2012 2:23 AM
Nobody in the rest of the world can understand why heavy security is required every time in China to translate the political power to the next leader. Does a Chinese leader have a guilty conscience for corruption and transfer of money to foreign countries, like Mr. Wen Jiabao? Even though leaders are replaced, freedom and even human rights are not given to Chinese people.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
November 02, 2012 12:50 PM
Why US president has to speak behind a bullet proof glass to his people? Does a US president have a guilty conscience for corruption and mess up the economy?
Even though US president is replaced, unemployment, campus shooting, food stamps are still there waiting for American people.

by: Anonymous from: China
November 01, 2012 11:15 PM
What exactly is it that make the Chinese authority so scared?

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
November 01, 2012 10:36 PM
nice equipments! If the CCP had these equipments before there wouldn't be Tianmen square incident.
Sure these are copies from the west including the tactics of suppressing people.
In Response

by: remie from: Canada
November 04, 2012 1:36 PM
@jonathan, for a patriotic chinese u r in the wrong country. Oh yeah u ESCAPE china or ur parents did for better life. The way u write seems like u hate Canada. GO BACK TO CHINA where u can be tatriotic all u want and defend ur brothers
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
November 03, 2012 9:43 AM
@ Hoang. What I am doing in Canada? I am doing the same thing Europeans did 400 years ago in America, OK? LOL
Ask me to go back China? Why dont you ask europeans to go back Europe? African american to go back Africa?
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
November 02, 2012 10:35 PM
Jonathan Huang,
What are you doing in Canada? Go back to China.

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