Military hardware close to venues proves tourist trap

BEIJING, July 26, 2008 (AFP) – “What is that?” asked a surprised and intrigued local resident as he looked at the missiles deployed near the main Olympic stadia in Beijing. Retired 55-year-old Ji Xiu had taken advantage of the new number six bus route to cross from her home on the opposite side of Beijing with her husband and stroll around the city’s Olympic quarter.

But she was not expecting such a display of military hardware.

“I do not know a lot about this area, but I had already seen the ‘Bird’s Nest’ and the ‘Water Cube’,” she said, referring to the National Stadium and the Aquatic Centre by their nicknames.

Here, a kilometre (0.6 miles) away from the main venues and next to a bus station, passers-by cannot help but stop and take photos of the battery of surface-to-air missiles and radars, part of which are hidden under camouflage.

This also presents a rare opportunity for foreign journalists to see Chinese military equipment, without risking questioning and detention for trying to take photos.

Xue Honglei, a 22-year-old student who had travelled from the central province of Henan with his girlfriend to check out the ‘Bird’s Nest’ and the ‘Wat