The most important event in China’s calendar is taking place now – a month-long restrictions are imposed on manufacturing, mass media, social media and possibly a gag order.
On Wednesday, October 18, Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off the 19th Party Congress, a once-every-five-years meeting in Beijing, with an exceptionally long speech.
On the same day, WeChat users had experienced disruptions, including changes to their avatars, tagline and/or profile photos. WeChat, a messaging service owned by Chinese internet giant Tencent boasts 963 million monthly users, had since made an announcement that the restriction will be in place until the start of November, by blaming on “system maintenance” – many remain unconvinced.
Likewise, WhatsApp has been blocked completely since this Wednesday. This means there would be no form of communication – sending and receiving messages – through this Facebook-owned platform. Users are also reporting that their virtual private network (VPN) apps are also being disrupted.
Limits on traffic and shutdowns to factories and non-essential construction had been observed. Outside the Great Hall, stringent security screening was up, with sensors in the venue’s plaza automatically detecting passes and displaying the identity of the people walking past – and that was before reaching the official security checks. Permits were also checked manually roughly every 200 metres by robot-like guards.
Reporters would go through more hassles, as they had to experience a long list of other security measures inside, including a “one reporter, one phone” policy. Extra phones had to be handed over and stored in lockers outside the hall’s entrance.
The opening speech given by President Xi was known to be long-winded and monotonous, at an incredible 3 hours and 23 minutes. As Xi droned on and on, foreign journalists took to Twitter to keep themselves entertained.
Many people sitting inside the Great Hall of the People struggled to stay focused. According to Shanghaiist and The Guardian, Jiang Zemin, former president from 1990 to 2004, stole the show by snoozing through the speech.
During wide-ranging address, which was aimed at initiating a “new era” in Chinese politics, Xi spoke about building China into a “great modern socialist country” by the mid-21st century, issued a warning to separatists who look to pull China apart and claimed that China’s socialist democracy is the world’s “broadest, most genuine and most effective.”
Afterward, China’s official Xinhua news agency had called it a “long-term guide to action that the Party must adhere to and develop.”
As usual, the key points highlighted during Xi’s speech had been organised and complied by China Daily, along with other hardworking news media in China, as they will be tested in school exams. This time round, China Daily has done an excellent job in translating the notes into English, much appreciated by students as they predict that the issues are likely to be tested in English exams as well.
Jokes aside, President Xi has apparently gained remarkable support and popularity among his people, as a netizen, Lingling, a year 2 university student remarked that, “I believe he is authoritative, but not coercive, because he cares about people’s interests but not his own interests. With his leadership, our country has been making tremendous progress.”