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Party won't even get started when communists gather in Beijing

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TOPSHOTS A member of the Fire Dance Group performs a choreography with torches in the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania on November 03, 2012. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKASPETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images

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By The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 7:28 p.m.
 

BEIJING — In honor of the upcoming 18th congress of the Chinese Communist Party, here are just a few of the things you cannot do in Beijing.

Watch foreign television while you exercise in a health club. Attend an outdoor concert. Do your homework online. Buy a knife in the supermarket. Buy lunch from a food cart. Run a marathon.

Complain.

Mao Zedong once said revolution is not a dinner party, but the party congress scheduled to begin on Thursday — during which a new Chinese leadership will be anointed — isn't looking like much fun, either.

Since September, in the name of security, Chinese authorities have turned to regulations that are snuffing much of the life out of Beijing, and police have increased their presence to keep the capital's streets free of problems. As a result, many residents are finding the country's political event of the decade to be a colossal inconvenience.

Countless public events — cultural, sporting and business — have been canceled or postponed with no explanation and scant notice.

It has become difficult to find street vendors selling jianbing, a Beijing-style fried pancake that used to be as ubiquitous as hot dogs in New York, or someone grilling chuan, the Chinese version of shish kebab.

At the city's five-star hotels, television sets are all fixed to state-run channels.

Why?

“You can't see foreign programs anymore because we are not allowed to play them. I don't know why, but the relevant parties said it was not allowed,” said an employee in the gym at the Grand Hyatt.

The congress is the whopper political event in China, sort of like the Republican and Democratic conventions and election night all rolled into one.

Though the event takes place every five years, this year's gathering is highly important because both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are to be replaced, along with other members of the top leadership.

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