China’s Heavy Hand Smooths Way to Party Congress – NYTimes.com
As this sprawling city of 20 million people steels itself for the 18th Party Congress, all sorts of potentially buoyant objects — balloons, homing pigeons, Ping-Pong balls and remote-control toy airplanes — are finding their way onto lists of suspicious items that could potentially carry protest messages and mar the meticulously choreographed political spectacle.
And this is just a tiny portion of the government’s rules and restrictions, circulated on the Internet but never officially acknowledged, that seem likely to make daily life especially challenging during the weeklong congress, which one provincial police department likened to a “state of war.”
In recent days, kitchen knives have been removed from store shelves, Internet access has mysteriously slowed to the speed of molasses, and international news channels like CNN and the BBC have disappeared from television sets in upscale health clubs.
At the Bookworm, a popular English-language bookstore, the section previously devoted to Chinese politics and history has been stuffed with Stephen King thrillers, child-rearing guides and Victoria Beckham’s “That Extra Half an Inch.”
“We’re just reorganizing,” one employee said with a helpless shrug. “They’ll be back after the party congress.”