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Page last updated at 05:32 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 06:32 UK

China tightens controls as Games loom

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Cars drive past an Olympics poster in Beijing
Car journeys are being rationed in a bid to cut pollution
A raft of measures designed to ensure a safe and smooth Olympics is making life more difficult for ordinary Beijing residents.

They are suffering inconvenience, annoyance and even detention as China prepares for the Games.

Some migrant workers have even been told to leave the capital.

But in most cases residents appear willing to put up with short-term problems for the country's long-term gains.

One of the most inconvenient measures will be introduced on 20 July to help tackle the capital's air pollution. Private cars will be banned on alternate days, forcing drivers to find other ways of getting to work.

For 32-year-old Lou Ning this is a particular problem - it is 25 miles (40km) from his home to his office, and getting there by public transport is difficult. He said he will probably travel to work by taxi on the days he cannot drive.

Beijing resident Xue Dongpo
The Olympics will help the economy and our development
Xue Dongpo, 80
Beijing resident

It is a journey that will cost 100 yuan ($14.60, 7.40) each way, but he is prepared to pay up.

"I have to drive a long way to work so the ban is inconvenient, but it's for my country, for the Olympic Games," said Mr Lou.

'Hassle'

However employees get to the office, they are having to deal with increased security checks on the subway, at airports and on the roads.

A security cordon has been set up on roads around Beijing at which passengers and their luggage are checked.

Migrant workers from elsewhere in China, without the right to live permanently in Beijing, have always had to register with the police - in theory.

In practice, many did not bother, but now the authorities are cracking down, making sure everyone is properly registered.

"It's a hassle. There's so much paperwork," said one migrant worker.

Some migrants are being told to leave their homes, and the city, during the games. They are being told that, as outsiders, they do not have the right to stay.

But most Beijing residents, like Lou Ning, seem willing to accept the rules because they believe the Olympics will bring China benefits.

Draconian

"The Olympics will help the economy and our development. It will improve the lives of ordinary people," said 80-year-old resident Xue Dongpo.

Chinese police parade during an anti-terrorism drill for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Xian, Shaanxi province, on 11 June
The security forces have been mobilised and drilled

For certain groups of people, the new measures are more draconian. Many political activists are being warned not to cause trouble during the Olympics.

Human rights activist Hou Wenzhuo said she was locked up in Beijing's notorious Qincheng Prison last month.

The 38-year-old says she was interrogated for 18 days - without being charged - before being released. Her release was as sudden as her arrest.

A number of other political activists have also been detained by a government that does not want any protests at the Games.

"I think it's unacceptable that the year of the Olympic Games is made a year to destroy human rights," said Ms Hou.

No police or government official wanted to comment on Ms Hou's detention.

Just how sensitive politics is ahead of the Olympics can be seen from a message posted on the popular web forum douban.com.

"Please, everybody take note, don't post any notice whatsoever that has anything to do with the Olympics," read a message posted by the site's administrators.

China is determined to stage a smooth Olympics - and is leaving nothing to chance.

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