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Beijing sees significant increase of armed police presence on streets

By Euan McKirdy, CNN
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 0634 GMT (1434 HKT)
An armed police officer stands guard in Beijing on May 12, 2014 amid greater scrutiny on security in China's capital.
An armed police officer stands guard in Beijing on May 12, 2014 amid greater scrutiny on security in China's capital.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 150 police vehicles, 1,350 armed officers to be deployed on capital's streets
  • Officials say deployment is measure to protect citizens against possible terror attacks
  • Significant stepping up of security comes ahead of 25th anniversary of June 4th crackdown on Tiananmen Square
  • Defense minister says that southern borders need to be better protected to prevent terrorism

(CNN) -- Beijing police have significantly stepped up security measures in China's capital, in what the country's state media described as "an escalation of anti-terror efforts" following a string of attacks.

Beijing has deployed more than 1,300 armed police officers and 150 patrol vehicles throughout the city at major intersections, according to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency. Each armed vehicle, comprised of nine police members and four assistants, are expected to cover a three-kilometer (1.86 mile) radius and respond to any incident within three minutes.

The presence of these armed vehicles were called a "deterrent to terrorists," according to Xinhua.

Such visible measures come as China reels from several bloody bomb and knife attacks in rail stations over the past few months.

Reaction to attacks

China blames separatists for knife attack
Tensions in western China
China calls Beijing attack terrorism

Separate incidents, in Kunming in March, where 29 were killed and 130 injured in knife attacks, as well as in Urumqi -- where three were killed and 79 hurt -- at the end of April and in the southern city of Guangzhou a few days later, with a further six injured, have highlighted the seriousness of the situation.

Last year in October Tiananmen Square, Beijing's iconic tourist destination, was the site of another alleged terrorist attack, when two Uyghurs crashed a jeep in the Square. Five were killed and dozens injured in the incident.

China's Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, recently advocated hardline tactics against potential terror attacks.

"We should keep the pressure on and dare to strike heavy blows... and firmly foil such plans before they become realities," the minister was quoted in the state-run People's Daily newspaper.

Separatists from the Uyghur minority group have been blamed for the attacks, which are classed as acts of terrorism by authorities.

Many Uyghurs, most of whom live in the far-western province of Xinjiang, decry Beijing's influence and the creep of ethnic Han culture into their lives. Separatists want the creation of an independent state called East Turkestan. The central government say that they have done much to improve the lives of those in the remote region.

Q&A: China's restive far west

Tiananmen connection?

The international media has been reporting on the high-profile crackdown in Beijing as the 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square approaches. The connection was not highlighted by Chinese media, as mentions of the incident have been scrubbed.

Several activists, including the prominent humans-rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, have been detained ahead of the anniversary, which takes place on June 4.

China's porous borders

Meanwhile, China's minister of national defense has highlighted the country's borders with Myanmar, Laos and Thailand as a weak point in the fight against violent Uyghur separatism.

"(We must) strictly control the border and, according to law, crack down on violent terrorism, drug manufacturing and trafficking and other criminal activities," Chang Wanquan said on the ministry's website.

The state-run newspaper Global Times reported that last month, security checks were lacking at key transport hubs and that passengers had been carrying "caged livestock, hammers and knives" when they boarded Shanghai's subway.

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