As we arrived by subway at Tian'anmen Square on July 1, the first clue that the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party was not going to be a normal day up on the street was the fact that the exit leading out onto the square was blocked off. As we soon discovered, the entire square was empty, with not a single person out there, except the guards who were stationed every so many feet and around key locations and monuments.
What you are looking at in this photo is the view from the entrance of the Forbidden City, directly across Chang'an Jie from the north end of Tian'anmen Square. The plaza area out there is normally filled to the brim with people taking pictures, looking at the portrait of Chairman Mao, and generally milling about in what is likely their once-in-a-lifetime trip to the heart of Beijing and the nation's political power. The building in the background is the very middle of the square. It contains the body of Mao Zedong (no pictures allowed inside the mausoleum). The flag flying in the square is a spot where many, many people gather at dawn and dusk (sometimes sleeping overnight), to watch the country's colors being taken down and put back up. And the big display is a temporary exhibit, commemorating the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary with a huge symbol and two screens chronicling the historically important and positive developments that have occurred during the party's long rule.
We were eventually allowed onto the square, as everything (except the mausoleum) was opened up at noon. But, for a few hours, it was crazy to look across at all of the emptiness.
PS: That guy in the foreground is an "undercover" security official.