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A Most Unusual Work Detail for Firefighters

"How Was Your Day at Work, Dear? …"

IMAGINE BEING A FIREFIGHTER IN BEIJING, showing up for work and getting assigned for the day to Tianamen Square where there's nary a shred of flammable material laying about anywhere.

Lasseter / McClatchy News

You may be wondering why this pair and several others are stationed around the square, and Max Fisher of the Washington Post tells us:

The government, it seems, really does not want any political disturbances during this week’s Party Congress, in which the country will change leadership. This means that Beijing officials are deploying, among other things, what has got to be one of the more unsettling measures against dissent: firefighter teams in Tiananmen Square.

Why, you ask, are there firefighters hanging out in Tiananmen Square? It’s a natural question, since they’re standing in the middle of a giant open square, with nothing flammable anywhere nearby. Except, that is, for the other people in the square, which may be exactly what they’re worried about. More specifically, the firefighters are likely there to put out any protesters who attempt to set themselves on fire.

Presumably, this week’s very public display of firefighters in Tiananmen – noticed by McClatchy’s Tom Lasseter, who posted the photo to his McClatchy China blog and kindly granted permission for me to reproduce it – is meant to deter potential self-immolators, or at least to put them out as quickly as possible.

I suppose drawing Square assignment has its advantages, such as no housework.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • J R

    On a recent trip to Tibet, I saw the same thing. In fact, many squares ( on a much smaller scale of course ) and markets had fire personnel hanging out in fire engines parked in the middle of public spaces.