On the eve of the 70th anniversary celebration of the communist party’s rule over China, many of Beijing’s roads, bars and restaurants have been closed to prepare for a military parade that most residents are not allowed to see.
The local government has told those who live or work in buildings that look on to the path of the military parade along the central Chang’an Street to close their curtains and not approach their windows during rehearsals or the show itself, which is expected to be the largest the country has staged.
Roads were blocked around a stadium in the city where some of the vehicles for the parade are being stored, meaning the bars and restaurants in the central nightlife district nearby have been shut for several weeks.
Permits to see the parade are tightly limited. For nearly everyone in China, the only view of the parade will be the angles of it broadcast by state media.
The restrictions are a symbol of how carefully the party is attempting to ensure their narrative of a rising China dominate, with President Xi Jinping facing a big political test with pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
On rehearsal days, police told some residents in the Wangfujing area that if they left their house, they would not be able to return — although in at least one instance they relented if residents agreed to carry their rental agreement with them.
“People of my generation are very worried about Xi’s policies, especially the elimination of term limits and tighter ideological controls,” said one Chinese professional who lived through the Cultural Revolution and asked not to be named. “It reminds us of Mao and is not good for the country.”
James Zimmerman, a lawyer living in the Jianguomen neighbourhood, was visited at home by three policemen and two Ministry of State Security officers.
“They sheepishly asked if I would be going on holiday because if I stayed I would need a permit to allow me to go to the store and such,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Across the rest of China, jumping the “Great Firewall” of internet censorship controls has also become much harder in recent weeks, as authorities blocked more aggressively the VPN servers that foreign businesses rely on to surf many foreign websites.
The VPN outages reached the point that the editor of the state media outlet The Global Times took to Chinese social media to complain about the lack of connectivity. Hu Xijin, who is known for his nationalist posts on Twitter, wrote on microblogging platform Weibo that “I personally think this is a bit over the top”. The post was deleted within hours.
Rumours have been rife on social media about the closures in Beijing. One post purports to show a notice from a hospital saying its maternity ward was being closed so pregnant women would no longer be able to give birth. The hospital later clarified that their delivery wards would remain open but road closures could affect the ability of patients to reach it.
Protesters in Hong Kong aim to disrupt Mr Xi’s celebration by staging demonstrations across at least six sites in the territory.