BEIJING — A thousand new facial-recognition cameras are watching for potential troublemakers. Kite-flying has become a jailable offense in some areas. Factories have been ordered to cut back or suspend production. And those are just part of China’s efforts to clear Beijing of dangers, dissent and smog during an international summit deemed the capital’s biggest event since the 2008 Olympics.
Ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum that opened Wednesday, city crews also have replaced 450,000 flower pots, swept newsstands and breakfast kiosks from some neighborhoods and encouraged — or warned — many residents, and especially dissidents, to leave town.
Government workers get a long holiday, and authorities eager to ease congestion are taking the unusual measure of deploying cargo trains to carry the cars of holidaymakers out of the capital.
Though there will be far fewer visitors to the city than there were during the Olympics, APEC will again throw an international spotlight on China with the arrival of top leaders from the Pacific Rim along with their countries’ media.
The forum culminates in a Nov. 10-11 summit of leaders of the 21 member economies, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and authorities are wary of anything that could draw media attention away from the meetings.
The organizer of a Beijing film festival that authorities shut down in August said police have asked him several times to leave Beijing during APEC.
“The police are at my home every day,” Li Xianting of the Beijing Independent Film Festival said in a telephone interview. He said he didn’t plan to leave on principle, and also because he didn’t want to bring trouble to anyone he might stay with.
Qi Zhiyong, a rights activist who lost his leg after soldiers fired on him during the Tiananmen protests in 1989, said he was asked to leave Beijing and told not to give media interviews.
A friend of Zhou Li, who helps ordinary citizens submit complaints to the central government about corruption and other grievances, said Zhou was detained around Oct. 21 so she would not organize any protests during APEC. The friend spoke on condition of anonymity because she had been told by police not to talk to the media.
Newspaper stands and street breakfast vendors have disappeared from some areas of the city, including Chang’an Avenue, the long road that passes Tiananmen Square, the main government offices and hotels where some delegates are staying.
Taxi drivers have been told to be wary of passengers sitting in the back seat to make sure they don’t open the windows and throw out fliers, especially when driving along Chang’an Avenue, said a man in the main office of the Minhanganle taxi company who only gave his surname, Liu.
Chinese counterterrorism expert Li Wei said the gravest threats to Beijing’s APEC meetings are extremists aiming to establish an independent state in the restive western region of Xinjiang.
Several deadly attacks targeting civilians have been blamed on extremists from Xinjiang’s native Turkic Uighur population. Most were in western China, but in October of last year, three assailants drove an SUV through crowds in the heart of Beijing, killing themselves and two tourists.
Hotels have been asked to report to police any guests from Xinjiang as well as Tibet and its neighboring Qinghai province during APEC, said a manager at a Home Inns hotel in Beijing’s Changping district. Tibetans have protested Chinese rule for decades, and since 2009, about 130 have died by setting themselves on fire in protest.
In an anti-terrorism drill Oct. 27, police dealt with simulated terror incidents at two meeting venues involving terrorists driving a car carrying explosives into a crowd of people, hostage-taking and “a gathering of troublemakers,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
About 1,000 monitoring cameras with facial recognition functions were being installed in suburban Huairou district, the venue of the leaders’ meetings, according to state media reports. The cameras were to cover business areas, gas stations, schools and other densely populated areas.
People will face detention if they fly their pet pigeons or kites in the vicinity of Beijing Capital International Airport to ensure flight safety, according to notices from the Beijing city government and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The rule had been in place before APEC but was initially punishable by only a fine.
Authorities don’t want to be embarrassed by Beijing’s notoriously polluted air, so they have ordered some factories to shut down temporarily, demolitions to be halted and cars off the road.Authorities say the discharge of pollutants in Beijing and its surrounding areas is expected to be cut by a third during APEC.
Highly polluting factories were told to cut emissions starting Oct. 1 and some of them are to be shut down altogether for APEC, said He Ruirui, of the environmental protection bureau of Langfang city in Hebei province, from which pollution wafts into Beijing.
The turning on of the winter heating, powered by burning coal, has been postponed until after APEC in an economic and development zone of Tianjin, a half-hour train ride from Beijing, following a notice from the Tianjin government, according to a woman surnamed Zhang from the service line of the Tianjin Taida Junlian Heating Company. Beijing’s heating is due to come on after APEC.
Half the capital’s cars are banned from the roads at any one time for a 10-day period that began Monday and ends Nov. 12. Driving privileges are alternating between vehicles with odd and even license plates. Beijing imposed the same restrictions during the 2008 Olympics, which helped herald blue skies.
Government workers get a six-day holiday from Nov. 7-12, but will be required to work an additional Saturday and Sunday to partly compensate. Schools and kindergartens will close, and people will be unable to register marriages.
People are also being encouraged to leave town.
Beijing’s railway bureau is deploying cargo trains that can carry passenger cars, so that travelers can take their vehicles with them on holiday without clogging up highways out of the capital. The fees will be roughly the same as fuel and tolls for the trip, the bureau said.
Chen Caiyin, of the public relations department of Ctrip, China’s biggest travel agency, said that Beijing’s tourism authorities asked them to tempt more tourists to travel during APEC.
She said the company is offering half-price discounts on 15 percent of their routes.
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