Wary of Protesters, Beijing Cracks Down on Car Window Crank HandlesOctober 27th, 2012 | Posted in Regulations
In China, the government builds "a harmonious society" in irregular and creative ways. Few of these ways, however, sound as bizarre as the recent official order to remove the rear-window crank handles on all of Beijing’s taxi cabs. Not for improving passenger safety or the city’s hygiene, the measure intends to bar those with "ulterior motives" in back seats from throwing out leaflets to air grievances.
The people, it seems, cannot even be trusted with rolling down car windows.
The order was issued and implemented as the capital was busy preparing for the opening of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on November 8. A new leadership, including successors to President Hu and Premier Wen, will be elected to the all-powerful Central Committee of the party. Beijing always steps up safety measures when important meetings convene. And this year, it feels especially insecure due to the Bo Xilai drama, exposure of the deep corruption involving Premier Wen (see New Times’ recent report), and rising discontent among ordinary Chinese.
Taxis are known to have been employed by petitioners, including members of the Falungong movement, "separatists," those losing their homes in forced demolitions, and all sorts of other "troublemakers," to draw public attention to their cases. As security forces will swiftly take away anyone protesting on the Tiananmen Square or Changan Street, taxis on the move prove useful for dropping large amounts of leaflets and escaping.
Various taxi drivers and riders in Beijing have confirmed the crackdown on car window handles. Netizens have provided pictures as proof on micro-blogging sites. One driver told the author of this article that his employer stripped the entire fleet of rear-window crank handles on Friday, which are labeled and stored somewhere possibly for later re-installation when this sensitive time passes.
Other security measures ordered for the party’s meeting include, as we have learned: office buildings in certain downtown areas in Beijing should keep their windows closed for some days; people taking trains should not include in their carry-ons instruments like fruit knives, tale knives, and scissors; all vehicles registered in places outside Beijing need a special permit to enter the city and can stay there for no more than three days.