Beijing on lockdown ahead of big Victory Day military parade

See @dpa’s full coverage of the parade here.

Beijing (dpa) – Beijing residents have been relishing “blue sky days” in the run-up to a huge military parade next week, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

But although factories have temporarily shut down to lift the smog that often blankets the capital, some residents are angry that they will not be allowed to go outside to enjoy the clean air.

“Don’t invite guests, stay inside, don’t take photos and don’t open the windows otherwise you could be mistaken for terrorists,” the staff of a housing complex’s administration told tenants in the Sanlitun entertainment district.

“There were people standing outside looking up at our apartments with walkie-talkies to make sure we complied,” said one tenant who requested anonymity, although it was unclear what the punishments would be for breaking the rules.

The restrictions were in place for parade rehearsals on the weekend, he said, when columns of tanks thundered down central Beijing, and will be in force again from 5 am to 5 pm next Wednesday and Thursday.

“They scared my cat!” the tenant complained.

President Xi Jinping will present medals to war veterans in a ceremony on Wednesday. On Thursday, top generals will lead elaborate military formations of more than 10,000 Chinese troops. The army’s latest advanced weaponry – including aircraft – will also be showcased.

The events will occur over a new national three-day holiday, officially dubbed the “Victory Day of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.”

Nearly 1,000 foreign troops from 17 countries will participate in the parade and 30 heads of state will be in attendance, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korea President Park Geun-hye and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.

Japan and the Philippines refused to send any representatives, Chinese state media said Wednesday.

Many commercial districts and tourist attractions will be completely shut down. The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets will cease trading on the day of the parade, and police will seize all electric bikes “without proper license plates and registration,” authorities said.

Several subway stations and many major roads will also be closed.

Additionally, the government has been cracking down in recent days on virtual private networks and other anti-censorship tools used to access blocked websites, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

Beijing is determined to mark the anniversary without a hitch, in order to impress viewers both at home and abroad, analysts said.

“Domestically, the purpose is to show the authority of Xi Jinping and internationally, it’s to show the growing strength of the Chinese economy and China’s ability to help protect the international order,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at the People’s University in Beijing.

However, parade preparations have provoked the ire of some citizens.

“It’s none of my business, I won’t watch the parade,” said Gao Meng, who works at an information technology company. “I don’t care if the air is clean now when it is due to so many annoying restrictions.”

“Anyways, the sky will turn black after the parade is over and all the factories work in overdrive to make up for lost business,” university student Allan Wu said.

The parade will take place mostly along the 10-lane Chang’an Avenue, which stretches through central Beijing. However, the general public has not been invited to watch on the sidelines of the parade.

It will be the 15th military parade since 1960 and the first parade to occur on a day other than October 1, the anniversary of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s declaration of the People’s Republic of China.

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