Safety In Beijing A Concern For Some, Not All In the wake of an American tourist's murder at the Drum Tower in Beijing, some visitors to the Olympics are taking precautionary measures. Others hadn't even heard of the incident. China has deployed 110,000 police in a massive security effort.

Safety In Beijing A Concern For Some, Not All

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93506997/93510211" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Security problems left a cloud over Beijing's Olympic kick-off this weekend. First came the murder of an American tourist, then coordinated bombings in the northwest province of Xinjiang. Beijing has 110,000 police on the streets and 1.7 million volunteers.

But as NPR's Louisa Lim reports, some Olympic tourists are reassessing their own safety.

LOUISA LIM: I'm standing in front of Beijing's Drum Tower. It's an imposing ancient pagoda, the color of ox blood with green roofs and balconies decorated in gold. But it was here that two days ago, a Chinese man attacked two American tourists, both of them relatives of the U.S. volleyball coach. One was killed, the other remains in hospital in serious condition. Today, the Drum Tower is closed. But still, the tourists are flocking here.

(Soundbite of car horn)

Unidentified Man #1: Hello.

Unidentified Man #2: Hello.

LIM: Bicycle rickshaws take visitors on tours of the nearby alleyways. Like Chris Glancey from New Jersey, many have a philosophical attitude towards the stabbing attack.

Mr. CHRIS GLANCEY (Tourist): You know, we have that in the United States all the time. So, apparently, it's a rarity here. So, you know, I don't feel any less safe here than I do in New York City.

LIM: There's been little coverage in the local news and some haven't heard anything, like Karen Wiederholt from San Francisco, who's here with her two children.

Ms. KAREN WIEDERHOLT (Tourist): We feel totally safe.

LIM: But did you know that an American tourist was attacked and murdered here two days ago?

Ms. WIEDERHOLT: No. No, I didn't know that. I guess hearing that news doesn't make me feel that good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LIM: That information had apparently been kept from her by husband Nick Driver, who admitted knowing both about the attack and about the bombings 1,700 miles away in Xinjiang. He wasn't worried, however, about his family's safety. Instead, he feared stepped-up security could take the fun out of the Olympics.

Mr. NICK DRIVER (Tourist): It's very difficult for a lot of people to get visas. It's difficult to get access to the beautiful Olympic center. That has the downside of spoiling some of the beauty of the Olympics for people.

LIM: Speaking on Sunday, Beijing Olympic official Wang Wei insisted security at the Olympic venues was adequate.

Mr. WANG WEI (Executive Vice President, Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee): Beijing is a safe city. But unfortunately, we're not immune to violent acts.

LIM: Well, there's certainly no lack of security here in Tiananmen Square at the political and symbolic heart of Beijing. There are policemen every 30 paces, there are surveillance cameras on all the lampposts. And there are also policemen patrolling the square. But it seems their focus is on stopping protests.

Ms. ALIE DUPREE (Tourist): I think they're scared, so I think they tried to use other resources that they got to make people safe.

LIM: Alie Dupree from Montreal believes the show of force is a sign of insecurity rather than strength. The motive for the attack on the tourists is still unknown, but some still believe Americans might be targeted. The Australian Olympic team has been ordered to wear their uniforms whenever they leave the Olympic park to distinguish them from Americans. Those thoughts also occurred to Dutch tourist Maaike Tuk.

Ms. MAAIKE TUK (Tourist): So we said we go dressed in orange, so we know we are not Americans.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LIM: I'm now sitting beneath an enormous outdoor television screen near to the Olympic venue. Now, you won't actually hear any noise from it and that's because it's not actually broadcasting. It seems the authorities are intent on avoiding large public gatherings for security purposes. And so, all around Beijing, these enormous public television screens have been turned off even though it means not bringing the games to the people.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.