China prepares for military parade with trained monkeys and blanket TV coverage

Aircraft perform during a rehearsal for a military parade in Beijing August 23, 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Expect pomp, ceremony and military planes - but no pigeons in the sky

In China, reality TV fans may have to switch off for the next few days, as anti-Japan war dramas and documentaries take over the country's screens.

The government has banned all entertainment TV shows, including the popular reality talent show The Voice of China, and variety show Happy Camp, to get people in the mood for its Victory Day parade on 3 September, which will celebrate 70 years since the end of World War Two.

Some have described it as a patriotic move, but not everyone is impressed.

On China's Twitter-like weibo site, user Yaxixi described it as "ignorant brainwashing", while Alex Huaier said: "The victorious country is banning entertainment, whereas the losers continuing singing and dancing - isn't it paradoxical?"

Here are four other eye-catching - although perhaps not unexpected - ways China has been trying to ensure that Thursday's parade will be perfect.

Monkey business

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Macaques - more fearsome to birds than you might expect

China has deployed macaques and falcons to ensure the skies over central Beijing are free of birds during the parade - birds could crash into the engines of fighter jets, potentially damaging the planes.

Macaque monkeys have been trained to climb up trees and dismantle birds nests in advance of the parade, Chinese media reported.

The monkeys can dismantle "between six and eight nests" a day, and also leave their scent on the trees, which deters the birds from rebuilding their nests, one of the monkey trainers said.

Falcons are also being deployed to circle the skies, scaring other birds away.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Pigeon lovers will want to keep their birds locked up on Thursday

It might sound extreme to some, but it's not unusual - hawks are also used to keep pigeons and small birds away from key sites in the UK - including Wimbledon's tennis grounds.

Meanwhile, officials have banned pigeons from flying over Beijing during the parade, warning breeders not to release them during the day.

Blue skies or bust

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption China wants more skies like this...

Beijing has become infamous for its air pollution in recent years - face masks are a must during periods of severe smog.

But China's government likes to show that, when it puts its mind to it, it can even improve the weather.

There were blue skies in Beijing during the Apec summit in 2014, after officials told factories to suspend production, slowed work at construction sites and restricted the number of cars on the roads.

Beijing has pledged to ensure blue skies again for the Victory Day parade - although some locals have argued online that the government should do more to improve air quality for normal citizens.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption ...and fewer like this

Trim generals

The top brass will help lead the parade - and they've had to make sacrifices to look the part.

More than 50 generals, who have an average age of 53, will take part in the parade - and the tough training has led to them losing an average of 5kg each, state media report.

They have also been training for the "perfect standing posture" by placing playing cards between their knees and "between their hands and legs to keep their arms locked to their body", state-run China Daily reports.

Security and censorship

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Chinese media are told to ensure positive coverage of the military

China maintains tight control over its internet and social media, so it should come as no surprise that it's keeping an eye on what people are saying ahead of the parade.

According to China Digital Times, which reports on censorship in China, the government has issued guidance to the media stating that news and comments related to the parade must be "positive", while all sites should "actively promote positive, sunny netizen commentary".

Several roads in central Beijing will be closed, while many hospitals have been told to suspend outpatient services on the day of the parade, although the emergency departments will remain open, Beijing media reported.

Meanwhile, residents living along Chang'an Avenue, a major road where the parade will take place, have been warned not to open their windows in the run-up to the parade. One resident posted what appeared to be a notice requesting they "avoid peering at the parade from their windows" on Thursday.

The Beijing government is also securing the skies ahead of the parade - hot air balloons and hang gliders are among the things to be banned in recent weeks.

Reporting by Helier Cheung

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