Pigeons set China Congress security plans aflutter

Fri Nov 2, 2012 3:27am GMT

By Sui-Lee Wee and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - Potentially sinister threats to China's ruling Communist Party sit unnoticed in cages perched on a rooftop above a small alleyway in southwestern Beijing. Not dissidents. Pigeons.

A week before the party's all-important congress opens, China's stability-obsessed rulers are taking no chances and have combed through a list all possible threats, avian or otherwise.

It isn't just the usual suspects like activists who have ruffled the party's feathers.

Their list includes handles for rear windows in taxis -- to stop subversive leaflets being scattered on the streets -- balloons and remote control model planes.

The goal is to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping at the congress, which starts on Thursday.

Li Zhonghe, 65, a retired construction worker, told Reuters he would have to keep his 40 to 50 pigeons in their coops when the congress starts.

"There are currently some extra restrictions, so we are not supposed to let the pigeons out to fly," Li said, adding he did not know the reason why. "It's this way every time there is a congress. I'm accustomed to it by now."

Unlikely as it seems, pigeons, often raised as a hobby in China, have been used as a tool of subversion before. In the late 1990s, dissidents released pigeons carrying slogans written on ribbons tied to the birds' feet in southern China.   Continued...

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