Massive parade marks China’s 70th anniversary

Massive parade marks China’s 70th anniversary
Live ReportingBy Anna Jones and Andreas IllmerAll times stated are UKPosted at 2:042:04Flag raising and gun salutePremier Li Keqiang has formally announced the opening of the celebrations. We've got a many-gun salute now - I've lost count. And soldiers marching slowly information towards the vast flagpole in Tiananmen Square where they'll raise the Chinese flag.Also…

Live Reporting

By Anna Jones and Andreas Illmer

All times stated are UK

  1. Flag raising and gun salute

    Premier Li Keqiang has formally announced the opening of the celebrations. We’ve got a many-gun salute now — I’ve lost count. And soldiers marching slowly information towards the vast flagpole in Tiananmen Square where they’ll raise the Chinese flag.

    Also on the podium, watching events along with China’s current leaders, are former leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

  • Xi Jinping enters the square

    To fanfares, President Xi Jinping has entered Tiananmen Square along with China’s other leaders. Mr Xi is extraordinarily powerful — last year he was cleared to become president for life. His doctrine — informally called Xi Jinping Thought — has officially been entered into the constitution. He is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, the man who declared the start of Communist Party rule in China.

  • Miles of military and smoggy skies

    The skies don’t look great in Beijing, it must be said. Very smoggy skies as a drone swoops over the city and the endless military ranks lined up. We’ll get some pictures to you asap. Lots of vigorous flag-waving from the crowds.

  • Events begin in Beijing

    The live feed of Tiananmen Square has kicked in — we’re seeing a huge stretch of Chang’an Avenue empty of regular vehicles but absolutely packed with military vehicles and personnel. It stretches for what looks like miles. And miles.

  • Media censorship galore

    It’s not just the live events that are being carefully choreographed — the domestic media coverage is as well.

    While Anna and I are sitting in the BBC’s Singapore bureau and can write without censorship, things would be very different if we were working for a Chinese publication. We’d obviously be expected to toe the party line anyway, but starting this October, we’d even have to sit an exam on Xi Jinping’s teachings, officially called Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

    «The fundamental point with this isn’t so much about the content,» David Bandurski of China Media Project told the BBC recently. «It is about reinforcing the message and understanding among journalists that they work, first and foremost, for the Chinese Communist Party, and serve its agenda.»

  • The struggles of Xi Jinping

    Pratik Jakhar

    BBC Monitoring

    Xi Jinping raises a toast at an anniversary celebration event

    Copyright: AFP

    The anniversary comes at a
    particularly tricky time for China’s President Xi Jinping, as he faces difficulties on
    multiple fronts. A
    protracted trade war with the US, relentless protests in Hong Kong, slowing
    economy, and rising pork prices provide a sombre backdrop for grand celebrations.

    In a speech on 3 September, Mr Xi mentioned the Chinese word
    for «struggle» more than 50 times, reminding young cadres of «a
    series of major risks and tests the country faces».

    The Chinese state media — which never miss an opportunity to
    trumpet the country’s achievements — have also been unusually candid about the
    «extraordinary challenges». The challenges have even prompted
    discussions among commentators that Xi may be «fierce internal struggles
    and squabbles within the Chinese Communist Party». But it’s hard to tell
    if there’s any backlash against him given the opaque nature of Chinese
    politics, where infighting takes place behind the scenes, and dissent is
    immediately silenced.

  • Flags — and inspectors — everywhere

    Across much of the city centre, national flags have been set up at basically every single door. And it’s been like that for days already.

    It’s not just flags though — voluntary inspectors have been monitoring the streets in the run-up to Thursday and locals have told the BBC they were questioned for things as little as having a brief chat with foreigners

    One person that after some foreign friends visited her, she had to answer to police asking: «Who were those foreigners? Why were they here?»

    Woman putting up Chinese flag

    Copyright: Getty Images

  • Early kick-off in Hong Kong tensions

    Hong Kong woke up today to find its downtown area already on a partial lockdown, with a large security presence and underground MTR services suspended at several stations near locations where protests are expected to flare up later today.

    As the sun rose, small groups of activists from both sides of the political divide began taking to the streets, according to BBC Chinese colleagues. In Wan Chai, a touristy downtown district, a group of pro-democracy protesters dressed in black did a short march led by well-known politician Leung Kwok-hung (also known as Long Hair). Meanwhile, a handful of people wearing red shirts stood at a street corner singing Chinese patriotic songs. Through it all, police kept a watchful eye.

    Pro-democracy protesters in Wan Chai

    Copyright: Zhijie Shao

    Image caption: Protesters clad in black called for democracy in Hong Kong…

    Pro-Beijing activists in Wan Chai

    Copyright: Zhijie Shao

    Image caption: …while a handful of red-shirted activists sang Chinese patriotic songs.
  • Floats lined up in Beijing

    A carnival float in Beijing

    Copyright: BBC

    Image caption: This float was spotted in the streets of Beijing this morning

    The Chinese government hasn’t given all that much information about today’s events. We don’t know for sure what time the parade will start — soon though — but we do know that it’s open to invited guests and select members of the public only. And they’ve heavily vetted the media.

    We’re expecting President Xi Jinping to inspect the troops in Tiananmen Square or along Chang’an Avenue before the full display on land and in the air.

    And we know that the guns will be followed by a civilian parade involving about 100,000 people. Last week a Communist Party official said it would be a «free, vivid, happy and lively show» with «extensive participation». They’ll be telling the history of modern China, we’re told.

  • Clear skies for the big day?

    Beijing is notoriously polluted and skies are more often grey than blue. To ensure the sun will join the celebration, several coal plants and construction sites in and around the city have been ordered to stop work.

    Possibly not enough though? Here’s a pic we just got from our colleagues on the ground in Beijing.

    Hazy Beijing skyline

    Copyright: BBC

  • Rolling out the big guns

    So what are we likely to see in today’s military parade? Well, the government has said it will be the biggest parade it’s put on in years, bigger than events marking the anniversary 10 or 20 years ago and bigger than marking 70 years since the end of World War Two.

    Officials have said there’ll 15,000 military personnel taking part, 580 pieces of military equipment rolling through the streets and 160 aircraft flying overhead.

    A crucial part we’re expecting is Beijing showing off its «advanced weapons» — all of them proudly developed in China.

    It’s all taking place in Tiananmen Square in front of officials, selected members of the public, and 188 military attaches from 97 countries.

    Chinese soldiers marching

    Copyright: Getty Images

    Image caption: Chinese soldiers conduct drills ahead of National Day
  • Keeping one eye on Hong Kong

    If the past weeks’ demonstrations are anything to go by, the smiles and celebrations in Beijing will be competing for media space with pictures of tear gas and angry young protesters in Hong Kong.

    There are always anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong on 1 October — known as National Day — but this time, they have added meaning.

    Official celebrations in the territory have been toned down to avoid clashes — the dawn flag-raising ceremony which normally takes place on the waterfront was moved indoors and there’ll be no fireworks display. At least six protest marches are planned.

  • What is China celebrating?

    Modern China — the People’s Republic of China — was founded in 1949 after the Communist Party won the civil war which followed World War Two.

    The Communist Party and the ruling Kuomintang had made peace during WW2 but afterwards turned on each other. After Mao Zedong defeated the Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, it retreated to Taiwan, creating two rival states claiming to be the real China.

    The National Day is of course marked each year, but this time round, things have been taken up a notch. Why? It’s the first big anniversary since China has emerged as a global power. Ten years ago, China was a superpower in the making, but by now the country is economically eye-to-eye with the United States.

    People’s Republic of China — it’s 70-year history.

  • Sunrise over Beijing

    Our colleague Robin Brant was out and about bright and early this morning in Beijing, to catch a glimpse of events. He’s just sent us this rather gorgeous picture of the sun coming up over the city. Beijing’s streets are not, it should be noted, normally this quiet.

    Pedestrians on a quiet street in Beijing at sunrise

    Copyright: BB

  • Hotels on lockdown

    Even before the big day, the military parade has caused no small
    disruption to residents of central Beijing. To ensure that today would go without a glitch, there obviously have been several large scale dress
    rehearsals.

    And as we were speaking to our colleagues and pundits in Beijing during the past weeks, we kept hearing stories of how shops and restaurants in the centre were being closed on and off, or had cut down their hours. Some subway stations were temporarily shut.

    The most bizarre incidents I heard was that near Tiananmen Square, hotel guests were locked down in their hotels for hours around the rehearsal parades. Being unable to get out of their room (or get back into your hotel) left many people, well, somewhat frustrated.

  • And even pigeons have been banned

  • Tight security for weeks

    Central Beijing always has high security, particularly around Tiananmen Square, the Mao Zedong mausoleum and government buildings including the parliament, called The Great Hall of the People.

    But security has been ramped up even more in the weeks ahead of the parade. The flying of drones has been banned across the whole city, as well as any kind of advertising balloons. On top of that, any kind of aircraft needs specific permission from aviation authorities to fly over the city — that includes light aircraft, gliders, airships, hot air balloons and model aeroplanes.

    Security guard gives directions to pedestrians at a barrier in Beijing

    Copyright: Getty Images

    Image caption: Large areas of central Beijing have been blocked off for security reasons.
  • Hong Kong could overshadow the big day

    The 70th anniversary is a big deal for China and the government has been preparing for years. They want it to go off without a hitch.

    But today risks being overshadowed by events in Hong Kong where months of protests — started by plans to introduce an extradition bill — have developed into much broader anger at the Hong Kong government and Beijing. We’ve already seen some scuffles there this morning.

    So, stick with us today. I’m here in Singapore with my colleague Andreas. We’ll be bringing you updates on all the events happening in Beijing and Hong Kong and elsewhere along with lots of useful info and accounts from our colleagues across the region.

    Police detain a protester in Hong Kong on 1 October

    Copyright: Reuters

    Image caption: A protester is detained in Hong Kong during early morning events
  • Growth over human rights

    But that has come at a cost. China is a one-party state, which is intolerant of dissent and opposition.

    It has a reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers. It exercises intense control over its population — what they learn, how they are entertained and what they can say.

    It has no qualms about jailing those who become too vocal or prominent in their criticism of the government, individual rights are secondary to growth and most recently the world has been shocked to learn of the mass detention of Uighur Muslims, among others, in Xinjiang province. China says it is preventing domestic terrorism with these mandatory training camps.

  • Welcome to a day of live China coverage

    Hello — good morning if you’re here in Asia — and welcome to our live coverage of China’s big day of celebrations. Today marks 70 years since Mao Zedong — largely known as Chairman Mao — declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China. And China is celebrating in style with a huge parade in Beijing.

    The economic and geopolitical rise of China — which defied all expectations — is arguably one of the defining stories of the 20th Century. In a remarkably short time, the Communist Party turned around a country which had only recently emerged from generations of feudal rule and years of civil war to become the second-largest economy in the world and a genuine rival to the US.

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