China implements airport-like security checks at crowded train stations

Published 3 June 2014

China’s Beijing subway system is among the busiest in the world, with sixteen lines completing more than ten million passenger rides a day. The mass concentration of passengers in one area represents a security problem; especially in the wake of recent attacks, including an April explosion at a train station in Urumqi which killed three people, preceded by a knife attack in March at a southwest Kunming train station.

In response to the growing security risks, Beijing passengers are now subject to security checks before their train commute. The Washington Post reports that Tiantongyuan North near Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, is one of nine train stations which require all passengers to go through a security check before boarding. The security checks began earlier this year as a continuation of previous checks on passengers’ luggage issued during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Some residents agree with the security measures despite the inconvenience. “Safety comes first,” said Wang Yang, a commuter at the Longze Station. “This might not be able to totally get rid of the risk of violence or attack…But it could at least frighten those terrorists — at least I hope so.”

It was just last year when members of the Uighur ethnic minority plunged through crowds in Tiananmen Square, killing themselves and two tourists. Security measures now include police officers armed with guns stationed at five major subway stops including Xidan, Dongdan, Tiananmen East, Tiananmen West, and Wangfujing.

China’s terrorism problem may be worsening as a growing Uighur-led Islamist militancy has emerged in response to the Chinese government’s tough stance on ethnic problems in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang in west China. Security experts are now worried that the mass of people outside Beijing’s subway stations might be prime targets for terrorists. Another bomb explosion or knife attack at any crowded station could lead to major casualties if commuters have limited exit points. Yet some commuters consider the security procedures a new normal.