China Focus: China mobilizes for "safe Olympics" in final two weeks 2008-07-23 20:06:29   Print

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

    BEIJING, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Wang Xiumei leaned against the iron gate of Hongxialu community at noon on Wednesday. Her dog lay at her feet in the shadows, panting from the heat, but Wang's eyes were fixed on people coming in and out of the community.

    Wang, 65, is one of Hongxialu community's 288 security volunteers who offered to maintain order in the community and enforce public hygiene in their neighborhood.

    "Most of us 288 volunteers are citizens above 50 years old in the neighborhood. We work a two-hour shift at a different location every day," said Wang, pointing to her red armband and Olympic-rings-shaped badge, which read "Olympic security volunteer".

    "Mostly, we just watch for strangers who enter the community and report to the police if we find anyone suspicious. We can't fight crime, but the presence of such patrols could scare troublemakers off. It's the least I can do to contribute to a safe Olympics," she said.

    With the Games set to open in 16 days, safety has become China's No.1 issue, and the public has also gradually shifted its focus from the "best Games in history" to the more pragmatic "safe Games".

    "A safe Olympics is the premise for a first-class Games with Chinese characteristics. Safety is our top concern here," Vice President Xi Jinping said here on Monday during a visit to the Games' command center and several event venues.

    It was the second time for Xi to stress safety, following his call on July 15 in Qinghuangdao of northern China's Hebei Province that Olympic venues outside Beijing should give priority to safety.

    Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Meng Jianzhu, Minister of the Public Security, also underlined in July that the security work for the Olympics is in a key phase, and the public should be mobilized to contribute to the security of the Games.

    China is not just paying lip service to security, as measures to ward off threats could be easily seen in Beijing and other Olympic cities.

    "Painstaking efforts have been made to strengthen community patrols, crack down on various criminal activities, tighten management of dangerous goods and deploy security personnel in crucial Olympic sites," Liu Shaowu, director of the Olympics organizing body's security department told a press conference on Wednesday. "It's all an unprecedented effort to eliminate potential safety hazards in a timely manner," he said.

    Fences now encircle all Olympic venues, the Olympic Village and the Olympic headquarters hotels. Monitoring and alarm facilities have been installed with personnel and vehicle security checkpoints set up.

    The city launched on June 29 security checks on passengers taking the subway, Beijing's most widely used transportation. As of July 13, police had detained 39 people who brought prohibited knives into subways.

    "It's a bit chaotic when you have to undergo subway security checks during rush hours," said Li Su, who works at an accounting company.

    "Every computer bag and briefcase has to be X-rayed, creating a huge queue around the security check machine. But personally I think it's worth it. Better safe than late, I guess," he said.

    Special security checks are also carried out in post offices, airports, bus terminals and rail stations around the country.

    Armed police with dogs began round the clock patrols on Monday at the capital's four railway stations, including a new one in the southern district that hasn't yet opened.

    At the Beijing West Railway Station, a major terminal, passengers are asked to taste any liquids they carry or put a sealed one under a special detector handset to identify its contents.

    At each entrance to the station, six officers carry out security checks. And at baggage facilities, every piece of left baggage must be X-rayed and banned substances like banana oil and paint must be taken out.

    All checked luggage would also be X-rayed and checked by police dogs, according to the railway police.

    In the wake of the bus explosion case in Yunnan Province, Beijing security departments have also intensified security checks at bus stations and on public vehicles.

    Airports in Beijing and other Olympic co-host cities adopted dual security checks from July 20 and passengers are required to show their IDs to buy bus, train and ship tickets to these cities. The police have set up checkpoints along the highways in and out of Beijing.

    The police also announced awards ranging from 10,000 to 500,000 yuan (1,449 to 72,463 U.S. dollars) for people providing useful tips to stop serious crimes during the Games.

    A liquid ban was introduced in April on carry-on baggage on domestic flights and the postal service has suspended accepting parcels containing liquids from June till Oct. 31.

    Identity cards are required and the contents of mail -- except letters -- are unpacked and checked before mailing.

    In addition, state-level anti-terrorist drills were launched to prepare the security forces against chemical attacks, hijacking and other possible contingencies.

    Beijing has deployed nearly 110,000 personnel -- including police, army troops and volunteers -- and mobilized the public to ensure the security of the Games.

    Special forces such as an army air unit, an engineering force and chemical defense troops will join the mission.

    Combat aircraft, helicopters, warships, missiles, chemical defense equipment and radar would be used in case of security threats.

    On July 17, the country even issued a manual to teach citizens how to discover possible terrorist attacks, to identify suspicious substances such as bombs and how to take proper actions in face of such attacks and minimize damages.

    These security measures followed the experience of previous host cities of the Olympics, according to Liu Shaowu.

    "The Olympic Games are a large-scale sports event such as we've never experienced ... With a huge number of people coming to China, international terrorist forces are seeking chances. Therefore, we have to intensify security efforts," Liu said.

    The massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich resulted in the death of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, and a bombing on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta at the Centennial Olympic Park killed two people and injured 111.

    According to Ma Zhenchuan, another top security official with the Olympics organizing committee, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) poses a real threat to the Beijing Olympics.

    "It's not imaginary. We have been focusing on the ETIM and it has been labeled a terrorist group not only by our country, but also the international community," said Ma, adding that investigations showed it has been plotting terror attacks on venues.

    "We'll pay attention and try our best to make the Games safe and peaceful," Liu said.

Editor: Gao
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