Beijing cancels National Day rehearsal after disruptions

BEIJING Fri Sep 18, 2009 10:52pm EDT

Paramilitary policemen stand guard as a People's Liberation Army (PLA) tank drives past them as they head towards Beijing's Tiananmen Square September 18, 2009, during a rehearsal for the National Day parade. REUTERS/David Gray

Paramilitary policemen stand guard as a People's Liberation Army (PLA) tank drives past them as they head towards Beijing's Tiananmen Square September 18, 2009, during a rehearsal for the National Day parade.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing has canceled a final rehearsal for a massive National Day parade after disruptions caused by preparations this week in the Chinese capital shut roads and large parts of the subway system.

The official Xinhua news agency said the final rehearsal for the October 1 parade had been set for next Saturday.

Downtown Beijing ground to a halt on Friday afternoon to make way for tanks, missile carriers, soldiers, floats and dancers getting ready for the celebrations to mark 60 years of Communist rule.

Office workers in buildings lining Changan Avenue, the main thoroughfare for the parade, cleared out early to avoid being stuck by a transport clampdown and armed paramilitary police swarmed street corners to keep onlookers at bay.

The event, which ended in the early hours of Saturday, would be the last before October 1, Xinhua said.

"A planned rehearsal on September 26 has been called off to avoid further affecting the public," it cited an unnamed spokesman for the organizers as saying.

"The four rounds of rehearsals had helped the organizers to spot and solve problems in preparation of the gala event," the spokesman added. "We are again deeply thankful for people's understanding and support."

The run up to October 1 has been accompanied by heightened security in Beijing, with the stability obsessed government taking no chances, especially after recent unrest in the far western region of Xinjiang.

As well as military personnel and equipment, the rehearsals featured 100,000 ordinary people, 60 floats celebrating everything from last year's Beijing Olympics to renewable energy projects, and 80,000 school children, Xinhua said.

State television showed images of the area around Tiananmen Square turned into a riot of color and lights, thronging with performers in sparkling costumes.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Dean Yates)

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