China will hold a massive military parade through the heart of its capital, but ordinary folks can't watch.

Authorities obsessed with security and leery of any possible hitches will virtually shut down central Beijing on Thursday, keeping most people out of eyeshot for the parade commemorating the defeat of Japan in World War II. Residents who live along the parade route have received notices ordering them to stay off balconies, keep windows shut, invite no guests and — at some buildings — snap no pictures.

"I am eager to watch the parade, but I understand it's impossible for everyone to have the chance to see it," said a Beijing lawyer who identified himself only by his surname, Yao. "I think watching the live broadcast will be a good alternative."

The neighborhoods around Tiananmen Square, the main venue where President Xi Jinping will inspect the troops with foreign dignitaries, will be under curfew, and Beijing has mobilized 850,000 neighborhood watchers to report anything even slightly out of the ordinary.

City roads will be closed, public bus service suspended and many subway stops sealed, while cordon tape will keep members of the public away from the parade. Authorities also are shutting down office buildings, shops, restaurants and even hospitals along the route for at least 24 hours. Some buildings are staying shut for three days.

As is customary for major international events in the capital, authorities have placed restrictions on factories and traffic to ensure that skies are clear of Beijing's frequent smog on parade day.

Many residents are fleeing the capital, including Zhang Yu, a 27-year-old media company employee heading to the northeastern seaside town of Dalian.

"The government is completely oblivious to the need for Beijing residents to have a normal life, and only cares about building its image," Zhang said.

Wu Zhenni, who lives in a 15th-floor apartment facing the parade's main avenue, said pride in the event outweighs any inconvenience. She said she was thrilled about having a front-row view and wasn't concerned about any photography restrictions.

"Maybe it's not openly allowed, but it's not a big deal if I take some photos from home, when I see great scenes!" Wu said.

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Associated Press writer Ian Mader and news assistant Henry Hou contributed to this report.