Guangzhou security tightens ahead of opening ceremony

Residents living near the site for the Asian Games opening ceremony could be watching the spectacular with a policeman in their living room as security measures tighten around the venue.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 12 Nov 2010, 11:24 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:00 AM

In a departure from the usual march of delegations into a packed stadium, athletes will be ferried in boats along the southern Chinese city’s Pearl River before being dropped off at an island for their official welcome.

Authorities’ efforts to safeguard the ambitious ceremony have seen residential districts on both banks of the river sealed off to traffic and pedestrians, leaving some residents grumbling behind high fences.

“It’s a shame of course,” said an elderly lady surnamed Chen near a 2.5 metre-high electrified fence. “We can’t get closer to the river to enjoy the ceremony tonight.”

Residents with views of the river have already been encouraged to leave their homes.

Regal Riviera, a luxury apartment block directly across from Haixinsha Island, the ceremony venue, has given residents an unusual choice — leave or allow police to accompany them during the evening show.

Authorities have promised to deliver a “fantastical, dream-like” show when the ceremony kicks off at 2000 local time (1400 GMT), however, security measures have already injected a surreal atmosphere around large swathes of the inner city.

Normally bustling streets and subway stations were sealed off on Friday, with banks and a hospital near the Pearl River had also shut their doors.

Police had set up security checkpoints at housing compounds and residents could be seen swiping their identity cards on a sunny, slightly smoggy morning.

“Of course it’s a pain,” said Ludovic Mieze, a French expatriate resident. “But this is China. It was the same for the Olympics.”

Massive construction

As with the 2008 Beijing Games, organisers have been desperate to depict the Asian Games as a symbol of harmony welcomed by residents of the booming metropolis.

Flag sellers on the streets and a small army of volunteers clad in bright tracksuits reinforced the message, speaking gushingly of the Games and their excitement for the opening.

But the state-led efforts to drum up enthusiasm have fallen on deaf ears for many locals, who gripe about the disruptions caused by massive construction, traffic restrictions and demolitions.

A number of Internet users have urged residents to mount a symbolic protest against a local government campaign which has encouraged residents to turn on their home lights to add colour to the opening ceremony.

Instead, the Internet users have called for residents to turn off lights to create a blackout.

Residents at Xian village, a warren of old, squat houses earmarked for demolition and ringed by luxury apartments near Haixinsha Island, spoke of a tense atmosphere in the runup, with more than 100,000 security staff deployed to safeguard the event.

A number of villagers were arrested at Xian village earlier in the year during violent clashes with riot police who tried to forcibly evict residents from homes due for demolition.

“We have no freedoms,” said a wrinkled village elder surnamed Lo in the village wet market. “Things are very tight.”

Another housewife buying a large turnip surnamed Chen said she felt helpless against city developers who would seize land illegally and often with government collusion.

“The city cares more about the Asian games than people’s livelihood,” she said.

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