China is in the middle of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, and the stakes are very high. Many in the country are suddenly finding their access to email a little spotty, and there are reports that in Beijing the sale of balloons, remote control aeroplanes, and even pigeons are being prohibited.
There’s another, more depressing sign of the security clampdown though: firefighters on hand in the middle of Beijing’s historic heart, Tiananmen Square:
As Max Fisher of the Washington Post points out, these firefighters are not there to put out fires in nearby buildings. They are there to put out fires on the people who set themselves alight.
Self-immolation has been a popular method of protest in China. Since February 2009, at least 60 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, according to one statistic, and there have been a number of (often successful) self-immolation attempts in Tiananmen in the past.
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