Friday, December 2, 2022

China's security forces are well-equipped to suppress dissent

China security forces are well-prepared for quashing dissent


BEIJING:China's Communist Party leaders don't cut corners when it comes to protecting their regime.

The boldest street protests in decades erupted in Beijing and other cities as a result of dissatisfaction with rigid and seemingly interminable restrictions imposed to combat Covid-19. This demonstrated the extent of this extravagant spending.

For a number of decades, the government has been setting up the tools necessary to put an end to massive upheavals in order to prepare for such challenges.

Police and paramilitary troops flooded the city streets with jeeps, vans, and armored cars in a massive show of force after an initial muted response that included security personnel using tear gas and pepper spray.

As they spread out, the police checked people's IDs and looked on their phones for photos, messages, or apps that were banned that might show they were involved in the protests or just sympathized with them.

Whether or not any of the detained individuals will face charges is unknown.The "zero-Covid" policy, which aims to eradicate the virus through extensive lockdowns, travel restrictions, and incessant testing, was the focus of the majority of protesters' ire.However, a speech that the party considers subversive and punishable by years in prison included calls for the party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to resign.

The protests were the most significant since the student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, which the regime still views as its greatest existential crisis, despite being much smaller in scale.The People's Liberation Army crushed the demonstrations with tanks and troops after leaders and protesters had reached an impasse, killing hundreds or even thousands of people.

After the crackdown at Tiananmen Square, the party invested in ways to deal with unrest without using deadly force right away.

That strategy was put to the test by the authorities during a wave of dissent by unemployed workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They focused on preventing organizers in various cities from joining forces and arresting the leaders while allowing rank-and-file protesters to go largely unnoticed.

They have occasionally been taken by surprise.In 1999, members of the Falun Gong meditation sect, whose membership grew to rival that of the party, surrounded the Beijing leadership compound in a show of defiance that Jiang Zemin, who was in charge at the time, took personally as an insult.

A severe retaliation followed.Members were harassed and occasionally sent to re-education centers, while leaders received severe prison sentences.

In 2008, when anti-government riots broke out in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and unrest swept through Tibetan regions in western China, the government responded with overwhelming force.

At least 197 people, mostly Han Chinese civilians, were killed in bloody clashes following a police crackdown on protests by members of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Urumqi, the capital of the northwestern Xinjiang region, the following year.

In both instances, authorities opened fire on the crowds, conducted door-to-door searches, and seized an unspecified number of suspects. The suspects were either given harsh sentences or were never heard from again.People were imprisoned in camps, subjected to surveillance, and prohibited from traveling.

China has been able to mobilize such resources as a result of its enormous budget for internal security, which is said to have tripled in the past decade and now exceeds that for national defense.Western estimates indicate that domestic security spending increased tenfold in Xinjiang alone in the early 2000s.

In 2010, for the first time, the published figure for internal security exceeded the defense budget.China stopped providing breakdowns by 2013.The U.S. think tank Jamestown Establishment assessed that inner security spending had previously reached 113% of safeguard spending by 2016.In percentage terms, annual increases were approximately double those for national defense, and both grew significantly faster than the economy.

Online content is monitored for anti-government messages, unapproved news, and images by a sprawling system that is less obvious but just as intimidating.While propaganda teams flood the internet with messages favorable to the party, government censors work tirelessly to remove such materials.

A legal system designed specifically to serve the one-party state lies behind the repression.China is a country controlled by regulation instead of represented by law and order.The laws are flexible enough to allow anyone who is targeted by the authorities to be imprisoned on any number of vague charges.

These range from merely "spreading rumors online," as evidenced by social media posts, to the comprehensive "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Most of the time, charges of "subverting state power" or "incitement to subvert state power" are used, requiring only evidence that the accused was critical of the party-state.Typically, the accused are denied the right to hire their own attorneys.It can take years for cases to go to trial, and almost always, people are found guilty.

People who are released from prison frequently face years of monitoring and harassment, which can damage careers and families and discourage them from rebelling.

China is well-prepared to crack down on dissent thanks to its extensive spending and internal security network.On the website of the conservative think tank based in Washington, DC, China politics expert Dean Cheng wrote, "China’s internal situation is far less stable than the leadership would like the world to believe."

He stated, "It's unclear how sustainable it is."This could result in a shift in Chinese priorities or an increase in tensions between them."

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