Police cleared streets and office buildings in parts of China's capital Friday for a full dress rehearsal of celebrations for 60 years of communist rule.
Patrons and employees spilled out on to the streets from offices, shops and restaurants shortly after lunch, hustling to subways and buses to meet a curfew in all-but name. Tactical police units with automatic rifles and paramilitary police lined thoroughfares as camouflaged tanks, trucks bearing intercontinental ballistic missiles and parade floats with models of the Great Hall of the People rumbled toward Tiananmen Square for the late-night practice for the Oct. 1 parade.
There were no crowds to cheer. The convoys passed sidewalks empty except for security. Notices went out earlier in the week politely suggesting that people working in the no-go zones leave by late afternoon and people living there stay home.
The parade with its displays of mass precision and military firepower is likely to delight and inspire patriotism when it's broadcast live nationwide. It's a spectacle to rival the last year's roundly praised Beijing Olympic opening ceremony. Some 200,000 people will perform, among them 80,000 primary and secondary school students who will flip cards on cue to form pictures and Chinese characters.
Many Chinese are justifiably proud of what China has achieved since the People's Republic was founded in 1949 — a transformation from an impoverished, war-wracked country to an economic and diplomatic power. "The motherland everyday gets greater and stronger. I'm truly happy," said Zhang Lianfa, a middle-aged worker, milling about a neighborhood of four-story apartment buildings as mechanized artillery rattled by a block away.
The heavy security is partly an attempt to keep under wraps key features of the parade to build suspense for the celebrations and partly intended to prevent any disruptions. The government is worried about a spillover from the recent ethnic unrest in its volatile western region of Xinjiang as well as trouble from petitioners who pour into the capital to complain about local injustices, according to The Associated Press.