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Segways – somehow not quite as intimidating as a bloody great horse

As a current resident of Beijing, my social life is already being affected by the slew of new rules and bylaws raining down upon the citizens of this city to best ensure that the upcoming Olympic Games is “safe” and – more importantly – free of episodes that might embarrass the notoriously thin-skinned government of China. Consequently, less easily controlled events in celebration of the Olympics such as street parties, spontaneous parades and other assorted manifestations of public revelry have all been banned. According to a BOCOG website, restaurants, bars and clubs will be subject to a 2am curfew. Even establishments that usually set up tables and chairs on footpaths for patrons to enjoy their food and drink in the balmy evenings have been forbidden from doing so this summer. Considering the above, I can reasonably confidently predict that if the Olympics goes off without a hitch, this colossally expensive event will be the most boring in living memory. Still, at least the fun-deprived foreign visitors will have something to snigger at:


Dinky little machine guns: check. Shiny gold targets on helmets to give opponents something to aim at: check. Segways: check, baby, and welcome to the future. Look out, bad guys – here comes the recently unveiled and Segway-straddled Chinese anti-terror/crowd control unit, charged with protecting the Olympic Games from universally acknowledged threats, as well as those that keep only CCP apparatchiks awake at night. Judging by the way China’s finest are handling their weapons in this photo, however, they look to be more of a danger to each other than to anyone not behaving.

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20 comments to Segways – somehow not quite as intimidating as a bloody great horse

  • Kevin B

    Is this available on PC or only on Xbox?

    If I send in my skateboard riot police do you retaliate with your water cannon and wipe both squads off the street?

  • International Arms Dealer

    This is an unintentional parody of Western Military Might As Controlled via The United Nations Control of Military Conduct (as sponsored by Segway International Legs Manufacturing Corporation.)

    I am of the understanding that those involved in the activity named ‘golf’ would call this a handicap. An urge to type ‘handicapable’ has most unfortunately been released…

  • Ian B

    restaurants, bars and clubs will be subject to a 2am curfew.

    Terrible. The very idea that a government would tell bars to shut at a certain time. Thank god we don’t have stuff like that here in the Free World.

    As to the segways, they look a bit comical but I bet they’re actually pretty effective. A hands-free mobile platform to shoot your gun from. I wouldn’t be laughing if I saw this lot coming at me with guns blazing, personally.

  • Britt

    Ah, but I’ve ridden one. You turn it with this little doohickey (yes, that’s the technical term) on the right handlebar. So unless John Woo is training the ChiComm sturmtruppen on how to fire SMGs one handed, this is a gimmick. It’s a PR thing, because the image of four Segways lined up staring down an unarmed man just seems ludicrous instead of monstrous.

  • guy herbert

    SI and others –

    You mistake the iconography. This is crowd-control by direct appeal to justified fear. Riot police, in free and semi-free countries, even notoriously nasty ones like the CRS and the South Korean paramilitaries, aren’t supposed to kill people and don’t usually except by accident. They are shock troops, literally – relying on shock and fear to break up a threatening mob. Mounted police ditto. (Even cavalry charges Á  outrance were historically a means to shatter the enemy’s formation and morale rather than inflicting mass casualties.)

    This one the other hand demonstrates a clinical willingness to use small-arms fire against unarmed crowds, and to flank and slaughter stragglers. The Segway is a slightly elevated stable firing platform – quite unlike a horse. They aren’t intended to be deployed against anyone armed, or even big crowds. There are tanks for that. The technological motif symbolises the state has knowhow and power you don’t.

  • bgc

    Looks like a scene from an Austin Powers movie.

  • Sunfish

    You mistake the iconography. This is crowd-control by direct appeal to justified fear. Riot police, in free and semi-free countries, even notoriously nasty ones like the CRS and the South Korean paramilitaries, aren’t supposed to kill people and don’t usually except by accident.

    Knowing only how it’s done here, exactly right. In the US, there is not one single police formation tasked primarily with riot control. When a riot or something like it kicks off, generally the officers assigned are everyone who can be broken loose from some other activity rather than specialists. Or, in the case of the DNC next month[1] they’re cops who are just standing around waiting for something to go wrong, but still not riot specialists.

    An interesting (to me) comparison: the body count of the 1999 Battle for Seattle vs. a few months ago in Tibet. The cop-haters and the rioters themselves may bitch about brutality, but there’s a massive difference between pepperballs or tasers or striking someone’s leg muscles with a stick, and a 7.62x39mm bullet in the eye. A regime that deploys its riot squad with real guns and live rounds is sending a very clear ‘step out of line and DIE’ message.

    Speaking of which, if Another Sockpuppet From China is about, I’m still waiting for an answer about how the police in Tibet managed to kill so many people with less-lethal weapons a few months back.

    [1] If you live in Denver, that might be a good week to go fishing on the west slope. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is lovely in August.

  • Somewhat OT, but I have a weird vision of the Odessa Steps sequence of Battleship Potemkin with these guys replacing the Cossacks going through my head.

  • John K

    Who knew China had such gay police?

  • Bod

    My concern is this – how did they get hold of these Segways – I thought that despite this ‘Most Favored Nation’ status, we still had to be cautious about selling dual-purpose technology to the Chi-Coms.

  • Laird

    But who knew that Segways were “dual-purpose technology”?

    Seriously, though, I’ve never ridden one, or fired one of those mini automatic weapons. Isn’t there a reasonable amount of recoil when they are fired (especially in automatic mode)? And wouldn’t that make the Segway unstable? Or don’t the Chinese care if the firing is inaccurate, since that would merely increase the terror effect?

  • Jerry

    This is ridiculous.
    There 6 of ’em in the picture.
    Take 6 men astride 6 horses, armed the same way and
    tell me which is more ‘intimidating’ !!
    A horse can trample you to death – somehow I don’t think a Segway ( a solution in search of a problem ) is anywhere near as intimidating/dangerous.
    Stable platform ? Sure, standing still on smooth ground or a paved surface. Try crossing rough ground or even moderately deep water with a Segway.
    Sorry, I’ll take a horse.
    I can ‘recharge it’ with almost any vegitation available.
    It will go over/around many things you wouldn’t even try with a Segway.
    Doubtful that even several people could ‘tip it over’ and no chance of being beat over the head with it after it is taken from you.
    Just as an aside, um, how are they STEERING the things.
    Weapon requires 2 hands for any attempt at accuracy to say nothing of the tendancy for them to ‘walk’ in full auto mode. SO somewhere along the line, you’ve run out of limbs’ !!!!!!!!!!
    ( Well trained horses can be ‘steered’ with your legs !!

  • Bod

    In response to Laird, I rode one of those Segways at a museum somewhere. You can stand on ’em without holding the grips, but the won’t move. Leaning in towards the front causes some motion because the gyros are attempting to re-establish equilibrium, but manoevering those things one handed? nah.

    Needless to say, I never got a chance to test what recoil would do from any kind of weapon, but I’m highly skeptical – I have the distinct feeling that this is just sophomore grade propaganda for the press corps to lap up.

    And as the Illuminatus says, nowhere as intimidating as a bloody great horse.

  • Gman

    It looks stupid but the Chinese don’t do anything lightly and without a lot of evaluation. May not look as intimidating as giant bloody horses but that is not the goal. They will have to be maneuvering on a daily basis amongst peaceful civilians looking for potential threats, not just coming in on a cavalry charge!. The facilities for the Olympics are probably very well paved and immacutately clean where manuevering these things will be easy and horses would probably not have good footing. Whether they shoot on the move or just use the Segways to get where they are going and then shoot from a standing platform, or simply step off quickly, this doesn’t look like a bad way to travel in and amongst a throng of pedestrians ,trying to make their rounds and then get to any specific point in a hurry without trampling innocent people. They are trying to show the world after all that they are not the monsters we all really know they are. Plus they want more world events like this to come back. If they scare them to death even if a real threat never comes then they will have defeated their own purposes. So I am guessing that this was well tested and well thought out and that these guys are probably very well trained on these things and that this one photo simply looks bad. I would love to see the secret training video of these guys answering the call to a potential threat on these things.

  • Guy: I think you’re reading waaaay too much into it. The people of China are already well aware what happens if enough of them step out of line in any meaningful fashion. And these crack Segway commandos are specifically for the Olympics period. This really isn’t particularly sinister – it’s just another plank in the big effort to show the world how cutting-edge new China is. However, the Chinese authorities don’t really understand the rest of the world. Apparently, we should think Segway-riding riot police are uber cool. Sadly, we think it’s a ludicrous spectacle.

  • llamas

    Horses, even police horses, do poorly on paved surfaces, especially on concrete, especially on wet concrete. There are some specialty horsehoes which can improve matters, but you’re still balancing 1500# of horse and rider on 4 tiny contact patches. And a horse that goes down on a paved surface is an absolute bloody menace, not least to the officer that was on it, because its attempt to get up will involve violent kicking and rolling, and will likely result in injuries to the horse as well.

    Leaving that aside, while mounted police can be useful in controlling a crowd that is generally well-mannered and not pre-disposed to resistance, their usefulness declines rapidly when the temper of the crowd is resistive or aggressive. Even with facial and other body armour on both horse and rider, a determined protestor who knows what he’s doing (and it’s not hard to learn) can incapacitate or bring down a mounted officer and/or the horse in no time flat. One boot out of a stirrup and the officer can be peeled off the horse like the skin off a banana – there’s nothing holding him/her on. The techniques for neutralizing mounted men in close quarters were well-known in the Middle Ages, and time has not dimmed their effect. A horse’s legs are far-and-away the most delicate structures it has, and a good whack – or worse – in the right place will drop the horse like a thousand of brick. And then you have a wild and very-dangerous melee on your hands.

    If a Segway runs over your foot, you might yelp in pain. If you get in the way of a downed horse that’s trying to get up, you might end up with two pounds of steel embedded in your skull. And you likely just dropped an officer, now probably injured, into the middle of a hostile crowd.

    Mounted police are absolutely great resources in challenging terrain and when working with well-disposed citizens – and they’re great public relations. Who doesn’t love a police horse? For a resistant and protesting crowd – not so much. The Segway may not be the answer, but if your problem is crowds of ill-disposed protestors, mounted police are a poor choice indeed.



  • abc

    As an instructive aside it’s interesting to look at how how the Chinese government have attempted to censor information about the recent riot in South West China.
    And the techniques that people have used to circumvent it.

    We might even be using similar techniques ourselves soon if this weird report from the BBC today is true.

    In addition it bestows powers on governments to decide which programs can be “lawfully” used on the internet.

  • Jim A.

    Hey, it’s NOT that cops on Segways is stupid. Nice for manauvering in a crowd, gives you just enough extra height to see above the heads of the crowd etc. But the idea that they’re going to be stearing ’em with their knees while firing off those little concealable SMGs? Man that’s funny. Or maybe scary, in a “bullets sprayed randomly,” kind of way.

  • Ksun

    Lol they’re really serious. Look at the guy with a sniper in the background, and the guy with a full sized AK-47.