Ministry of Public Security Launches Seven-Month Nationwide "Strike Hard" Campaign

August 11, 2010

In June 2010, the Ministry of Public Affairs launched a seven-month "strike hard" campaign aimed at quelling "crimes of extreme violence." The official campaign report specifically calls on public security officers to "strengthen strike hard measures" and to "increase efforts to resolve social conflicts." Chinese and international media outlets have noted that the campaign announcement follows highly publicized incidents, including a series of school attacks. Critics of the "strike hard" campaigns claim that the nationwide campaigns signal a step back for human rights protections in China. Some Chinese scholars and lawyers have expressed concerns that efforts to meet law enforcement targets under "strike hard" campaigns lead to wrongful convictions and abuses of criminal procedure.

MPS Launches "2010 Strike Hard" Anticrime Campaign

On June 13, 2010, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced that public security agencies across the country have launched a seven-month "strike hard" campaign (known in Chinese as yanda) to "severely crack down on every type of serious violent crime." According to a June 15, 2010, China Daily article, the campaign focuses on "extreme violent crime, gun and gang crime, telecom fraud, human trafficking, robbery, prostitution, gambling and drugs." Amidst reports of rising crime and high-profile cases of public violence, the MPS announcement states that public security officers must "pinpoint the source, underlying and basic problems that influence local public security." According to the China Daily article, Vice Minister of Public Security Zhang Xinfeng told a national meeting that the campaign aims to target destabilizing developments within China: "China, during a process of social and economic transformation, is facing emerging social conflicts and new problems in social security." The MPS announcement also calls on public security officers to "strive to bring about a favorable public order environment for the successful hosting of the Shanghai World Expo and the Guangzhou Asian Games."

Striking Hard Against Rising Crime and Emerging Social Conflicts

The 2010 "strike hard" campaign comes as China's violent crime reportedly rose in 2009, according to statistics from the 2010 Rule of Law Blue Book (published by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)), which were reprinted in a March 1 People's Daily article. The article reported that "violent crimes such as homicide, rape, and robbery saw sizable growth in 2009, the first increase of such cases since 2001." According to a July 1 Oriental Outlook article, the CASS 2010 Rule of Law Blue Book showed that "criminal cases" [xingshi anjian] increased by more than 10 percent between January and October 2009, while "public security cases" [zhi'an anjian] increased by about 20 percent in the same period. Chinese and international media outlets have also connected the "strike hard" campaign announcement to publicity surrounding other social tensions and conflicts in China. A June 14 Radio Free Asia article, for instance, reported that unspecified "media" outlets have noted that the strike hard campaign―the "longest in China in recent years"―follows recent high-profile school attacks and a series of violent incidents involving law enforcement officials. According to a June 15 Associated Press article (via the Boston Globe), the crackdown appears to be a response to unspecified "experts" who say the crimes appear to be more the result of "simmering and widespread frustration over the growing wealth gap, corruption and too few legal channels for people who have grievances.”

Background: China's "Strike Hard" Campaigns

In response to an increase in crime and corruption over the past 30 years, the Chinese government has periodically instituted national crackdowns against crime―referred to as "strike hard" anticrime campaigns. (Chinese governments at the provincial-level and below often hold similar "strike hard" campaigns.) The "2010 strike hard campaign" is the fourth round of nationwide "strike hard" campaigns since 1983, according to the June 15 China Daily article. China previously conducted similar national anticrime campaigns in 1983, 1996, and 2001. The China Daily article notes that "[d]uring the campaign, police usually take tough measures against crimes and judicial authorities hand down swifter and harsher penalties." As a result, some Chinese scholars and lawyers have expressed concerns that efforts to meet law enforcement targets under the campaigns have led to wrongful convictions and abuses of criminal procedure. In a July 3 Radio Free Asia interview, Heilongjiang-based lawyer Wei Liangyue described the shortcomings of the "strike hard" policies:

[It] should be said that the most fundamental law of our country is the Constitution; the Constitution also clearly stipulates that the People's Republic of China implements the rule of law and establishes a socialist country ruled by law. However, this type of "strike hard" [campaign] often occurs outside of rule of law and legal provisions―and may even breach the boundaries of the law to carry out a crackdown on crime.

According to the July 1 Oriental Outlook article, some Chinese legal scholars have criticized previous "strike hard" campaigns, whose "severity and speed" have led to criminal procedure violations. The Oriental Outlook article states "the procedural rights of criminal suspects and defendants to a certain extent are deprived―which is not consistent with the spirit of the rule of law."

The "2010 strike hard campaign" signals that the leadership may be backtracking on recent policy changes affecting criminal justice policy and human rights protections. On March 13, 2007, a People's Daily article reported that China's leadership had adopted the criminal justice policy of "balancing severe punishment with leniency" (known in Chinese as kuanyan xiangji) in what appeared to be "a deliberate move away from the 'strike hard' anti-crime policy that has been in place in China for more than two decades." In the 2007 article, Professor Liu Hainian of CASS stated, "Handling all criminal offenses under the sole approach of 'strike hard' is not in the spirit of building a harmonious society, which is based on equity and justice." According to the July 1, 2010, Oriental Outlook article, a number of legal scholars interviewed expressed "great surprise" to see "strike hard" in the news again, since they believed "the term "strike hard" had already faded out of Chinese criminal justice history."

For general information on the national "strike hard" campaign in 2001, see p. 30 of the CECC 2002 Annual Report.