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Even pigeons are banned from flying for China’s 70th birthday

Jane Li
Pigeons in Beijing

Beijing has stepped up security as it prepares for the Communist country’s upcoming birthday on October 1, including grounding tourists in their fancy hotels near Tiananmen Square for two 12-hour stretches for the past weekend during parade rehearsals. Birds, it turns out, are on lockdown too.

A notice from the Beijing municipal government (link in Chinese) said yesterday (Sept. 15) that pet birds, including homing pigeons, as well as any other object that could “affect flight safety,” are prohibited from flying across the sky in the Chinese capital’s seven major districts until October 1. Drones, kites, balloons, and lanterns—China just celebrated the Mid-Autumn festival, which is often marked by launching lanterns in the sky—are also barred from being in the air in those districts during the period.

“In the restricted flying areas, pigeon and other bird owners must keep the animals in pens and prohibit them from flying. Pigeon associations must also supervise their members, clubs and public pens to comply with the rules,” said the notice, warning of punishments and criminal sanctions for not obeying the restrictions.

The ban of the birds and other objects is aimed at ensuring the safety of the military planes, peace doves and celebration balloons that will be part of the military parade that will mark the day, it said.

Beijing still has hundreds of thousands of pigeon keepers, estimated to own as many as one million of the birds, according to a local Beijing newspaper. It is a common sight in Beijing to see flocks of homing pigeons fly past the city’s skyscrapers and return to the whistling of their owners. People breed the birds not only for fun, but sometimes also for lucrative returns (link in Chinese): Pigeons that win awards in racing competitions can bring their owners rewards in the tens of millions yuan (millions of dollars).

China is set to celebrate its 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, the date when the Mao Zedong-led Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China after defeating the rival Kuomintang in China’s civil war, which saw the latter retreat to Taiwan. The celebrations this year are expected to include a larger-than-usual parade of tanks and other cutting-edge military vehicles, and an important speech delivered by president Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao.

 

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