Top Chinese Security Officials Urge Continued Crackdown in 2010

February 12, 2010

China's top security officials issued statements in late 2009 and early 2010 that indicate top-level support for an indefinite extension of a security crackdown ostensibly aimed at "safeguarding social stability." China's leadership launched this most recent campaign with a series of temporary security measures for hosting the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and later justified their continuation as a necessary response to the global financial crisis and politically "sensitive" anniversaries in 2009. The 2010 extension of this campaign coincides with the planned enhancement of intelligence collection and information sharing between security agencies across jurisdictions that will facilitate the Party's "prevention and control" efforts. Surveillance carried out through video cameras, street patrols, paid informants, and greater Internet monitoring is central to this "social management" campaign. Security forces are using the campaign to target "hostile forces" such as "ethnic separatists," "religious extremists," political activists, and Falun Gong practitioners.

On December 18, 2009, the Communist Party and central government public security leadership in Beijing held a video teleconference with members of the Party's political-legal committees, which among other things, oversee the law enforcement apparatus at the local level across the nation, according to a December 28 Legal Daily report (reprinted in Xinhua). The meeting focused on propagating the Party's public security agenda for 2010, summarized as "three key projects," an agenda which also was disseminated by the state-run media. Zhou Yongkang, member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the secretary of the Party's Central Political-Legal Committee,described the "three key projects" as "moving fully ahead with the settlement of social contradictions, innovations in social management, and the fair and honest enforcement of the law," according to a December 18 Xinhua report (reprinted on the website of the Communist Party of China).

Recent comments by top leaders suggest that the central government plans to continue in 2010 the campaign to "safeguard stability" (weiwen) that it launched in 2008 and 2009. Yang Huanning, Executive Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), told participants in the video teleconference that "in the next year, the conditions for safeguarding stability will not ease; the pressure to safeguard stability will not lighten" (Legal Daily, 12/28). At a meeting held in Tianjin in early December 2009, Zhang Gaoli, Politburo Member and Secretary of the Tianjin Municipal Party Committee, spoke of persistent and "severe challenges" to social stability and told local state security officials that "you must maintain a clear mind… [and] never lower your guard," according to a December 3 Tianjin Daily report. Zhang also urged these officials to "work diligently to build an impregnable fortress for defending state security and social stability." Public security officials in Fujian province gathered on January 5 for a province-wide meeting in which the MPS conveyed its "demand" that "from the beginning to the end of 2010… criminal and investigative departments within public security agencies throughout the nation… must maintain a strike-hard posture of elevated pressure," according to a January 6 Legal Daily report.

Emphasis on Controlling the Internet

China's public security leadership continues to prioritize control over Internet content and traffic as an essential tool in their campaign to "safeguard stability." In a December 1, 2009 essay published in the Party's official journal Seeking Truth (Qiushi), Meng Jianzhu, the Minister of Public Security, spelled out his concerns about the Internet: "The Internet has already become an important means by which anti-China forces carry out infiltration and sabotage against us and magnify their capacity to cause damage. The Internet represents a new challenge for public security forces safeguarding state security and social stability." Meng called on officials to "place greater priority on correctly guiding online public sentiment." Zhou Yongkang, in expounding upon the "three key projects" in the December 18 video teleconference, noted that gaining greater control over "the management of the building of online virtual communities" was one of the "innovations in social management" that public security forces must pursue (Xinhua, 12/18).

Harnessing Technology to Strengthen "Security"

Chinese security forces are acquiring and developing new technologies to improve coordination across jurisdictions and to enhance intelligence, surveillance, and early warning systems through a process they refer to as "informatization" (xinxihua). "Informatization," according to Meng Jianzhu, will lead to the creation of a "prevention and control" system that is "omni-directional, all-weather, and free of cracks" (Seeking Truth, 12/1). Meng outlined "six nets" of "prevention and control" that will facilitate widespread video surveillance and increased monitoring of citizens' activities on the streets, in residential communities, in work units, and on the Internet. Yang Huanning announced to video teleconference participants on December 18 that 2010 would witness the second phase of the roll-out of the "Golden Shield Project," a large-scale, technology-driven intelligence collection system: "We should comprehensively promote the second phase construction of the 'Golden Shield Project,' with focus placed on the building of an information system of 'Great Intelligence' for public security forces; strive to complete the building of a three-tier intelligence platform at the three levels of ministries, provinces, and municipalities by the end of next year" (Legal Daily, 12/28). Yang also revealed specific groups that the Golden Shield would target: "we should… vigorously strengthen intelligence work; closely guard against and severely crack down on disruptive sabotage activities staged by hostile forces, ethnic separatists, forces of terror and violence, religious extremist forces, and the 'Falun Gong' cult both inside and outside of the country; and work hard to ensure that we obtain early warning and first-strike capabilities to subdue the enemy." In early December, Minister of State Security Geng Huichang described these efforts to "constantly strengthen and perfect" the "prevention and control" system as necessary to "win the 'people's war' of safeguarding state security and socio-political stability under the new conditions" (Tianjin Daily, 12/03).

Focus on "Disposing of" Mass Incidents

Chinese security officials have identified the prevention of "mass incidents" (quntixing tufa shijian) -- the Party's umbrella term for mass petitions, violent riots, and unauthorized peaceful demonstrations and assemblies -- as a crucial aspect of "safeguarding stability" and the primary task associated with the "key project" of "settling social contradictions." As mentioned above, the "three key projects" refer to the Party's 2010 public security agenda of resolving social unrest, deploying technology to upgrade "social management," and working to curb corruption among security officials. The central leadership has stressed the importance of resolving "mass incidents" at the local level to prevent unrest from spreading to Beijing. This policy appears aimed at insulating the central leadership from the backlash against policy failures and official corruption. In his December 1 essay in Seeking Truth, Meng Jianzhu urged security officials to "promptly report" any "clues of instability" to the Party Committee and government, and "by hook or crook…and to the utmost limit, settle disputes at the grassroots level, solve problems at the local level, eliminate hidden dangers at the germination stage, and prevent the occurrence of mass incidents at the source." Zhou Yongkang, while visiting Sichuan province in early January, repeated this refrain to local security officials: "by hook or crook, eliminate contradictions and disputes at the germination stage, settle them at the grassroots level" (Xinhua, 01/06).