Already difficult commutes in China's capital became even more punishing this week, as Beijing beefed up subway security checks in the wake of deadly attacks targeting civilians.
Hundreds of unhappy commuters stood in long lines across the city Wednesday morning to undergo enhanced security screenings, which now include body checks as well as bag screenings in several stations. At stations in the city's north, subway staff said passengers had to wait between 20-30 minutes to get through the security line, up from about 10-15 minutes prior to the new screening requirements.
The mercury is expected to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) this week in Beijing, and at some stations, tempers were also climbing.
'This is such a hassle,' said Zhi Yajuan, 23, as she stood in line Tuesday at Tiantongyuan North Station. 'It's just going through the motions. They don't care even if the machine beeps.'
Another passenger at Longze station complained that he had to wait 20 minutes longer than usual. 'I'm not a terrorist, so I'll take [a different] station later and avoid the long waits,' said Zhou Gang.
Pictures circulating online showed a sea of passengers penned in by guard rails as they awaited the enhanced security checks.
'Is this Spring Festival travel? No, it's just the Beijing security check,' people joked online, referring to the once-a-year period of holiday travel that floods the nation's transportation systems and has been dubbed the world's largest annual human migration.
For many in Beijing, commutes are already difficult, as passengers negotiate the capital's urban sprawl. According to the city's traffic bureau, the average commute length in Beijing is 52 minutes, higher than either Guangzhou (48 minutes) or Shanghai (47 minutes). The city's subway system is among the busiest in the world, with more than a dozen lines that see a daily ridership of some 10 million.
Security measures have stiffened across China in recent weeks, following a series of violent attacks since the start of the year. In the most recent incident, 31 people were killed last week in an attack at a market in northwest Urumqi. In March, dozens were killed in an assault by knife-wielding assailants at a train station in southwest Kunming. Authorities have labeled such episodes terrorist attacks and attributed them to separatists in northwestern Xinjiang.
Additional security measures in Beijing now include helicopter patrols, while cities across the country have been further arming their police forces, as well.
On Tuesday, some waiting in line said they understood the need for additional commuter headaches.
'Safety comes first,' said Wang Yang, as he waited in line at 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.'