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Oppressive atmosphere in Beijing: China police ask about shoe size, politics, cash

Posted by Author on August 8, 2008

By Emma Graham-Harrison, Reuters, Thu Aug 7, 2008-

BEIJING (Reuters) – Living in Beijing? The government wants to know your shoe size, blood group, political affiliation and where you get your money from, according to police in at least one corner of the security-obsessed Olympic host city.

Questionnaires handed to a businessman in Beijing’s east also demanded full technical details of the company computer network and a hand-drawn map of Internet connections.

Beijing has ramped up security ahead of the Games, with missile launchers guarding the main venues and a special 100,000-strong security force on the alert for terrorists.

Residents of the capital have got used to over-zealous police intruding into their lives. Visitors, even those who stay only one night, are expected to register at the local police station. Police sometimes call to ask why if they do not.

Compounds in the city centre have demanded even long-term residents carry special identity cards, while one restaurant owner said his staff had been warned by police not to speak to foreign customers about anything but their orders.

But the police forms seen by Reuters, which were aimed at Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japanese businessmen and foreign non-government workers, were unusually intrusive with detailed personal questions, some of which implied a criminal record.

Among some over 100 categories to be filled were “the last time of breaking the law”, date of release from prison and source of funds. The document also asked about “cultural level” — or educational background — distinguishing features, and favorite hangouts.

They appeared to be internal police documents, said the businessman who asked not to be named because he feared retaliation for handing the forms to foreign journalists.

“It just seems like everyone is terrified ahead of the Olympics that something will happen on their patch so they are overreacting,” the businessman asked to fill them in said.

“If I’d known the city was going to be like this I would have left for the Games,” he told Reuters.

On Monday, religious extremists killed 16 police in the restive West in an attack the government said aimed to disrupt the Games, and which appeared to justify some of the concerns.

But critics say the security lockdown risks cloaking the host city in an oppressive atmosphere — with live music and outdoor parties banned at some venues, security checks to get on the subway and tens of thousand of migrant workers and others deemed undesirable pushed out of the city.

– Reuters: Beijing police ask about shoe size, politics, cash

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