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Police are checking various popular student hangouts in Beijing’s university district to make sure they have no more than 10 foreigners inside at any one time, as the stability-obsessed authorities ramp up security for China’s biggest annual political gathering.

Security is usually tight in the capital during important political events, with petitioners kept at arm’s length and activists kept under close watch.

But this time, the focus is also on foreign students in Wudaokou, in the city’s north.

Three restaurants and bars in the area said police had told them in the last week to keep out big groups of foreigners until two days after the end of the annual session of the National People’s Congress.

“Until March 22, every Friday night and Saturday, as requested by local authorities, we can only allow a maximum of 10 foreigners in our store at a time,” a notice at one pizzeria said.

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“We appreciate your understanding during these challenging times.”

An employee at the restaurant said the police made the request in person before the weekend, and had returned for regular checks since then.

“We were told that if we did not comply, our business would be shut down immediately,” she said.

A similar notice was posted on the wall at a nearby cafe.

A manager said the police issued the notice last Monday, the first day of the NPC.

She said no reason was given for the restriction on foreigners.

But an officer at the Dongsheng police station, which oversees Wudaokou, denied that it had imposed any limits on the number of foreign customers.

“We’ve never issued such a notice. We merely told bars and restaurants to control the total number of customers during peak hours, without making any specific requirements,” the officer said, adding that such reminders are common.

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