Every week for the past month, residents of Chaoyang District in Beijing have had their street shut down by uniformed men and bizarre vehicles.
When residents attempted to cross the road on September 14, security men dressed in black told them that floats for the upcoming October 1 parade were coming through.
One week later, they struggled to even get into their building compound. This time there were large, tank-shaped objects hidden under green military blankets.
Many of those in the community were understanding, even a little bit amused.
“It is for the 70th anniversary,” said a retired local surnamed Liang. “I feel happy our country is 70 years old. … We will keep the weapons a secret.”
The inconvenience and heightened security come in the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, an important moment for the ruling Communist Party and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
To celebrate, the Chinese government is holding a massive military parade through the center of Beijing – about 15,000 personnel, more than 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of weaponry and equipment will take part.
Authorities have been working overtime to make sure nothing goes wrong ahead of the parade or during, and it isn’t just local residents affected.
Even tourists could see that Beijing is preparing for a major event.
“You clearly see the increase of the police everywhere,” said Shanghai-based teacher Andre Pinto. “We clearly can see the security level is up.”
All along the central Chang’an Avenue, in both directions, black clad security guards with red arm bands stood every few feet for miles.
On Friday, crowds of domestic Chinese tourists were scrambling to get into Tiananmen Square, where entrances and roads were blocked in random places by police and security barriers.
One visitor was overheard complaining that if the government was going to impose such strict measures ahead of the event, they should issue a national warning to travelers.
But a Beijing mother who’d brought her daughter down to the square said that they were happy to just come back another day if they couldn’t get in.
“I brought my daughter down here just to feel the atmosphere ahead of the 70th anniversary,” said the woman, who declined to be named for speaking to foreign media during a politically sensitive time.
Even Pinto, visiting from Shanghai, said that he wasn’t concerned, and it was nice to have fewer people on the street while he was in Beijing.
“We were expecting much more crowds but so far it’s very good … we’re fine with it,” he said.
No pigeons or drones
For weeks, residents have had to deal with traffic jams and road closures due to practices in the center of the Chinese capital.
During rehearsals leading up to the major event on October 1, hotels near Tiananmen Square reportedly sent notices to guests informing them they would be unable to leave the property for several hours each day.
But restrictions have become increasingly draconian in the lead-up to the event. On September 15, the Beijing Municipal government announced that all civilian flying objects would be banned until after the celebration.
That included drones, kites and even racing pigeons.
But the bigger concern now is road and subway closures.
From the night before the parade, the majority of central Beijing will be out of bounds as preparations get underway.
On October 1, Beijing’s Subway Line 1, which travels east-west through the city and passes Tiananmen Square, will reportedly stop running for the whole day.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s normally-restricted internet has become even more difficult to navigate for users trying to access sites outside China’s Great Firewall in the lead-up to the anniversary.
Residents report that VPNs have been cut off one by one, leaving sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter more or less inaccessible.