Latest update: 21/02/2011
- China - Internet - Middle East
Officials to 'nip social conflict in the bud' after police prevent protests
China's top security official has urged the government to devise new ways to defuse social strife, a day after police stamped out attempts to organise streets protests mirrored on events in the Middle East.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - China's domestic security chief said the government must find new ways to defuse unrest, underscoring Beijing's anxiety about control even after police squashed weekend calls for gatherings inspired by Middle East uprisings.
Zhou Yongkang, the ruling Communist Party's top law-and-order official, told cadres they had to "adapt to new trends and imperatives in economic and social development", official newspapers reported on Monday.
"Strive to defuse conflicts and disputes while they are still embryonic," he told an official meeting on Sunday, the China Police Daily and other papers reported.
Over the weekend, Chinese police and censors showed the Communist Party has little to fear from protesters hoping to emulate the unrest that has swept the Middle East, unseating Egypt's long-time president, Hosni Mubarak, and now threatening Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Police dispersed dozens of people who gathered in central Beijing and Shanghai on Sunday after calls spread on overseas Chinese websites urging "Jasmine Revolution" gatherings. The police and foreign reporters outnumbered aspiring participants and curious passers-by caught up in the crowd.
There were no signs of further protests in Beijing on Monday.
"I don't think this was ever a serious plan. It was more like a performance or a stunt," said Cui Weiping, a Beijing-based scholar who said she was not allowed outside by authorities on Sunday. "In fact I'd never even had any involvement. They seem to have just confined anyone they could think of," she added.
"Jasmine" still unsearchable
The words "jasmine" and "jasmine revolution" remained blocked Monday on the search functions of China's Twitter-like website Sina.com, and on Tianya.cn, a popular chatroom.
Chinese state media has been largely silent on the planned protests, although state news agency Xinhua published two short articles that described how police dispersed the crowds that had gathered in Beijing and Shanghai.
"There is no collective will for revolution in China," said an English-language opinion piece from The Global Times, a popular tabloid published by China's Communist Party.
China's fast economic growth has undercut discontent that could challenge the government. That growth has also enabled sharply higher funding for domestic security forces, which bristle with surveillance equipment and intimidating hardware.
But a flurry of speeches and official statements since last week has underscored that China's leaders are worried about longer-term challenges to their rule.
Despite harsh restrictions on independent political activity, China has many local riots, protests and strikes, often sparked by anger over corruption, land disputes and job losses.
The central government fears those tensions could accumulate. Provincial and ministerial level officials have been meeting in Beijing to discuss how to cope with these worries through stronger "social management", and President Hu Jintao himself told them that they should be worried.
"The problems remain of development that is unbalanced, ill-coordinated and unsustainable," Hu said in a speech on Saturday. He urged the officials to "strengthen governance to nip social conflicts in the bud".
The Communist Party's zeal in smothering dissent to maintain stability at all costs has created a domestic security system so expensive that it is sapping funds needed elsewhere to maintain the country's economic health. .
Critics say the Communist Party's reluctance to embrace political reforms will ultimately doom its efforts to create a more "harmonious society", particularly if it can't control officials who are the target of discontent.
"The Chinese government is extremely powerful vis-a-vis society," said Pei Minxin, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. "But this is a government that is very weak at disciplining or policing its own agents."