Chinese police official warns of threats by 'hostile forces'

 

JUST DAYS after the jailing of top dissident Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s top police officers has promised “pre-emptive attacks” against threats to the Communist Party’s rule of the country.

In a strongly worded speech carried on various state websites, Yang Huanning, vice minister for public security, said that even though the economy was growing, there were still many threats to stability.

“The schemes of western anti-China forces seeking to westernise and split us, friction and disputes between countries and hostile forces stirring up chaos and sabotage . . . remain major factors affecting our national security and social stability,” Mr Yang said.

“Strike hard against hostile forces at home and abroad. Strive to anticipate and prevent, staging pre-emptive attacks.”

The word “hostile forces” generally refers to political threats. Mr Yang focused on perceived dangers from separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang, both Chinese territories where indigenous people are seeking more autonomy from Beijing.

Mr Yang said the security forces must increase their levels of political vigilance, and gather intelligence about these “hostile forces”.

He also mentioned the influence of the Falun Gong religious group, which was banned in China in 1999 after a harsh crackdown but has been a nuisance to Beijing through its numerous activities outside the country, including pickets at embassies around the world.

“In the new year, there will be no relaxation of stability preservation and no lightening of pressure on stability,” he said.

Mr Yang’s speech was actually delivered on December 18th to security officials, but only released yesterday. The timing is significant because Liu Xiaobo, the country’s most prominent critic of Communist Party rule, was sentenced to 11 years in jail on Friday on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”.

The court said Mr Liu was guilty of inciting subversion for helping to organise the Charter 08 petition seeking democratic reforms, and for publishing essays critical of the Communist Party on the internet.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists marched on Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong yesterday, Mr Liu’s 54th birthday, saying his sentence was unforgivable.

They were carrying pictures of the soft-spoken literature professor and a large pink birthday card filled with signatures.

The hardline speech comes after a period in which Beijing has been tough on dissent.

As well as the sentencing of Mr Liu, the government has also been beefing up internet controls, the so-called Great Firewall of China, which blocks websites critical of the government, and has maintained an iron grip on Xinjiang and Tibet.

In July, ethnic riots in Xinjiang brought China’s worst violence in decades, killing nearly 200 people, most of them ethnic Han Chinese.

Local Uighurs turned on Han Chinese in the regional capital Urumqi after a protest against attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in southern China in June that left two Uighurs dead.

In the wake of the violence, security forces launched a “strike hard” campaign in the far western region and vowed to wipe out lawlessness. Tibet’s capital Lhasa also remains on high security alert since the March riots in 2008, where Han Chinese were again the victims of attacks by locals.

Human rights activists say Beijing exaggerates the threat from militants to justify harsh controls.