China / Cover Story

Capital move to Beidaihe's beaches

By He Na (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-26 07:40

Capital move to Beidaihe's beaches

Tourists at a public beach in the Beidaihe Beach Resort on Aug 14. The neighboring beach area is a resort owned by the sanatorium for the departments directly under the Communist Party of China Central Committee. [Photo by Wang Jing / China Daily]

Summer resort buzzes with annual visit by nation's leaders, reports He Na in Beidaihe, Hebei province.

High alert

Summer is the busiest time for the police in Qinhuangdao.

"We are not allowed to take leave or vacations during this time. That includes some police officers from Beijing and other cities in Hebei province," said a policeman in his early 30s who declined to be named.

The security deployment includes numerous plainclothes police, sporting well-pressed attire and sunglasses, who sit on benches and keep a lookout on passers-by, he said.

Almost every road to Beidaihe beach will have strict checks, such as the highway exit for the resort area and nearby gas station. Police will ask drivers and passengers for their ID cards at these spots.

"It is our honor that top leaders choose Beidaihe to meet and rest. We are used to this busy time in summer as it has been so for several decades. To ensure state leaders' safety is our top concern," he said.

"With the rising number of terror attacks this year in other cities, we have also increased patrols at the railway station and some roads as part of enhanced security."

Veteran security guard Zhang Qiang prides himself on a special skill.

Stationed in a sanatorium about 40 meters from the east gate of the Rest House for State Leaders, Zhang said he can tell the status of the luminaries at the government compound just by the level of security in the area.

His observations are always spot on and win the applause of passers-by who want to know more about the secretive location and the identities of its residents.

"Top leaders always frequent this place in summer. I've grasped the patterns of police activity and the tension in the air, to judge the level of security and the types of officials and visitors involved," said Zhang, who is in his late 30s.

"Many times, after the leaders leave and we find out who they are, my judgments are proved to be correct."

The Rest House for State Leaders is in Beidaihe, a summer resort in Qinhuangdao city of Hebei province.

Beidaihe is 258 kilometers fromBeijing. It is the closest beach to the Chinese capital and boasts fine stretches of sand more than 20 km long.

Cool breezes blow from the richly wooded hills nearby to make it a coveted respite from the sweltering summers of the city.

The small seaside resort becomes the center of Chinese political activity every summer when top Communist Party of China and State leaders descend on the area to make major decisions.

Its aura of leadership means that Beidaihe, which has been compared to US presidential retreat Camp David, consistently fuels the imagination of common folk who want to catch a glimpse of some of the activities at the top echelons of Chinese power.

Security staff like Zhang stationed in sanatoriums for the public in Beidaihe say the general atmosphere here is heavy with security but that can actually make it feel safer, particularly in summer.

"For one thing, you don't have to worry about safety here even if you're an attractive young girl walking alone on the beach after midnight," Zhang said.

"There are many police in uniform, as well as countless other plainclothes officers. They are on duty in the beach area round the clock."

Police in fluorescent green vests already greet visitors to Beidaihe at its highway entrance to check IDs.

Vehicles nearing the Rest House for State Leaders are checked again, with armed police inspecting the trunks of randomly picked cars at the gas station located nearby.

Locals say the people sitting on chairs by the roadside in the area of Jianqiu Road are actually plainclothes police keeping an eye on passengers in cars and buses, which are not allowed to stop.

Traffic police officers may also conduct roadblocks in certain junctions like Xihaitan Road and only give way to those who display the requisite passes.

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