The Washington Post

New barriers go up along Tiananmen Square as 25th anniversary of crackdown nears

New gold-colored barriers were installed along Beijing's Tiananmen Square, replacing old white ones. Authorities touted them as sturdy and corrosion-resistant, but activists point to coming 25th anniversary of violent crackdown. (Li Hao)

In time for the 25th anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, the government has unveiled shiny, new golden railings along the square.

Authorities say the new yellow barriers were installed to enhance car safety as well as aesthetics, but many bloggers and critics think it is more likely a reaction to an apparent protest attack last year in which three people crashed a jeep into Tiananmen Square, killing themselves and two pedestrians and injuring at least 38.

Authorities said the crash was the work of Muslim separatists from the restive province of Xinjiang.

The gold barriers are replacing older white ones that run along Chang’an Avenue, the major thoroughfare in Beijing along which the square is located. They are just one of many signs in recent weeks of how much preparation is underway — and how seriously the government is taking it — ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, which occurred June 4, 1989.

In recent days, lawyers have been detained, rebellious scholars arrested and activists have disappeared.

This week, one of China’s most venerable independent journalists, Gao Yu, 70, was arrested and forced to confess leaking state secrets on national television.

Compared with such heavy-handed tactics, the new railings are a lighter touch. Authorities touted them as being sturdy and corrosion-resistant and adding an aesthetic flourish, with their decorative lotus patterns.

Most important, they have been tested for vehicle impact, the state-controlled Beijing Youth Daily reported Friday. If a car were to smash into the railings, they would bounce back to their original position.

“One piece of the railing weighs over 100 kg, and the base weighs over 70 kg. It’s much more impact-resistant,” an unnamed official from the manufacturer said in the Beijing Youth Daily report.

Many Web users on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter referred to the color of the railing as “tuhao jin,” or “new rich gold.” The word tuhao, or new rich, refers to someone who is rich but lacking in taste. (“New rich gold” is also how Chinese describe the champagne-gold-colored version of the new iPhone 5s.)

Some bloggers criticized the government for wasting money on such security projects instead of trying to combat air pollution. Other imaginative users mocked the supposed spring action of the new barriers, asking: If errant cars really do bounce off it so hard, won’t they hit others cars around it?

Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report.

William Wan is the Post's roving national correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He previously served as the paper’s religion reporter and diplomatic correspondent and for three years as the Post’s China correspondent in Beijing.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.