State censors were quick to censor these images on Weibo, China’s top microblogging platform, after they were shared several hundred times.
They show the Beijing Snow Leopard Commando Unit taking the subway to a terrorist attack drill in Beijing.
The snow leopard, a stocky and short-legged big cat, is a sensitive and watchful animal. It is an expert mountain climber and fast runner, and hunts by pouncing on its prey.
The Chinese Armed Police Force named its special unit in Beijing the Snow Leopard Commando Unit when an operations troop tasked for counter-terrorism and riot control was set up in 2002. This unit has since won numerous competitions among special units in China, as well as with units from other countries, earning itself a reputation for excellence and professionalism.
However, the Snow Leopard Commando Unit was recently on a terrorist attack drill in Beijing, fully geared and ready for action, but got stuck on the notorious Beijing highway network due to heavy congestion.
All members were forced to take the subway to the drill ground in the end.
One possible reason for taking this series of photos offline could be to save face among Chinese authorities. Bad press or photos that put the government in a poor light is a no-no in communist China, and must be covered up by whatever means necessary.
Another possibility is that the men weren’t actually being deployed for anti-terrorist work, but against local people protesting over human rights issues, as happened in South China at the end of April.