By CELESTE FONG
”TEMPORARY transfer” – that’s what many residents in Beijing are experiencing. They are switching jobs to take on tasks that will contribute towards making “One World One Dream” a success.
The tax officer who has been handling my tax file called me more than two months ago to inform me about her “transfer”.
“I am afraid I cannot handle your tax file from now; but it is only a temporary situation. I’ve been transferred to help out with the Olympics,” she explained but did not disclose what her “new task” would be.
The meditation course in China I wanted to take has also been postponed due to the Olympics.
Several weeks ago, my favourite newspaper stall at the bottom of my building “disappeared” as part of the Soho Property Management’s “beautifying project” for the Olympics.
The invasion of all things Olympics is not to be treated lightly. A staff at a store was told to quickly put on an “Olympics Security Volunteer” armband when an officer was spotted making the rounds to check on the volunteers at work.
Take a stroll in a residential community and pass by the row of small shops – you’re likely to see each store with an Olympics security volunteer distinguished by a red arm band.
Everywhere you go in the Chinese capital, you will see giant billboards with banners proudly proclaiming the “One World One Dream” motto.
My local friend who is not a Beijing resident told me that he would not be able to visit the Chinese capital during the Games.
“All those without a Beijing hukou (registered residence permit) are not allowed to go,” he claimed.
It is learnt that Beijing will also limit cars from other cities entering the capital.
“An overseas Chinese who has bought Olympics tickets is considering not coming because the hotel rates have shot up by more than 400%,” said a friend.
The police in my residential area has put up yet another set of posters on the main entrance glass doors of my block to remind foreigners and non-Beijing residents who have recently moved into the area to report to the police station within 24 hours.
The posters are written in at least three or four languages – Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean.
On Friday night, workers and staff were busy setting up the security screening system at the subway stations. Beijing begins security checks at subway stations today and passengers who do not cooperate or insist on carrying dangerous articles will be barred from taking the subway or be prosecuted.
Many months ago, my colleague Chow How Ban in Shanghai shared how the subway passengers there had to go through security checks at the subway stations when the municipality introduced the measure. He wondered then why Beijing had yet to introduce the security checks.
Rumour has it that a security incident happened in Shanghai and thus the authority expedited the security process in the city.
According to an Associated Press news report a few days ago, there were guards with machine guns patrolling the Beijing airport. At the airport, two-member teams of guards with machine guns began work on Thursday and will patrol all three terminals, it quoted Xinhua News Agency.
On subways, police will start checking passengers for guns, knives, explosives and flammable, poisonous or radioactive material. “I feel that things are becoming tense here in Beijing). China has stationed a ground-to-air missile just a short distance away from the Olympics venue,” remarked a friend.
The fenced-off military compound has been set up south of the Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, a venue for soccer and modern pentathlon and well as within a distance of the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest National Stadium.
Well, four years ago, a police station in Athens was bombed exactly 100 days before the start of the Olympics.
Will anyone blame Beijing for beefing up its security measures?