Join our Mailing List

"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Security screws tightened as paranoia takes hold

July 14, 2008

For party leaders the Olympics has become one big headache.

Sydney Morning Herald
July 13, 2008

EVERY few days Liu Shaowu, a leader at the Security Command Centre for
the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, is driven to the walled leadership
compound of Zhong Nanhai for another verbal beating. Usually he cops it
from the feared head of public security, Zhou Yongkang, but sometimes it
is the President, Hu Jintao, or even the moderate and mild-mannered
Premier, Wen Jiabao.

Until recently many at the Security Command Centre were focused on a
"green and open Olympics". This was supposed to be China's coming-out
party. But that all went out the window with the Tibet riots of March 14
and its aftershocks.

Now each unit at the command centre - the Public Security Bureau, the
Paramilitary Police, the People's Liberation Army and the main
intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security - is focused on
"stability" at the expense of almost all else.

At the start of this month the command centre's 100,000 police, troops
and intelligence officials were instructed to work around the clock
without weekends until an unknown date after the spectators file out of
the Olympics on August 24. They are calling it "the final fight".

Nobody will say winning the Olympics was a mistake. But the hierarchy
from Mr Hu down to the Beijing city administrative police who are
charged with clearing the streets of petty food vendors cannot wait
until it is over. To them the Olympics has become little more than an
opportunity for every terrorist, dissident and troublemaker inside and
outside China to do their best to sabotage the country.

When the leadership is in a mood like this - and it has not been since
the aftermath of the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 - many of the old
regulations and habits of this former police state are trundled out.
Much of the country is paralysed.

Diplomats are giving up on the usual processes of government. Business
people are putting their deals and urgent trades on hold. Some
researchers who usually open their doors to journalists refuse to pick
up the phone.

Tibetans have been detained, Uighurs have reportedly been shot during
raids or executed later, and what looks like government paranoia to
outside observers is justified as a proportionate reaction to social,
economic, political and terrorist threats the state believes it faces
from every direction. The Security Command Centre officials mainly point
to the Tibetan uprising, which is still simmering across five provinces
on the Tibetan plateau, and what they see as a greater threat from armed
Uighur separatists in the western Turkic-speaking province of Xinjiang.

But they also say the dominant ethnic Han population is riven with
division and disquiet. They point to the plunging sharemarket and the
soaring cost of food. They fear the country's ordinary folk are being
stretched economically and abused by the official robber-barons who rule
thousands of townships across the country - which their system has
created but cannot control.

Command centre officials point to the extraordinary Weng'an riots in
Guizhou a fortnight ago involving 30,000 people, and smaller incidents
in provinces such as Shaanxi. They are striving to shut down China's
nascent civil society, which brings potential flashpoints to their
attention, while they simultaneously rely on the censor-defying
"Southern" stable of newspapers and magazines to find out what is really
going on. They do not trust the information that is passed up through
the Government's backside-covering hierarchy.

Privately, some say a large group of men and women were arrested with
bombs in their backpacks in an outlying province recently, another group
was caught trying to poison the key drinking water reservoir of a
capital city, and amateurs were found with bomb-making ingredients
bought from a supermarket in Beijing. None of these events has been
publicised, they say, because China is anxious enough as it is.

And so they reassure the public with impressive anti-terrorist drills
and anti-aircraft guns strategically placed around the Olympic stadium.

The line between terrorism and political dissent is easily blurred in
China. The same security forces are working just as vigorously with just
as many resources to ensure no Falun Gong practitioner, human rights
campaigner or foreign athlete unfurls an embarrassing banner on live
national TV. On Friday a newspaper in Hong Kong reported that the
national broadcaster CCTV would delay its Olympics coverage by 10
seconds to ensure there were no surprises. If true, the 100-metre track
final may be all over before Chinese viewers can see it.

Each day the mayor of Guangzhou visits his city's petitions office,
which for many citizens is the only forum to redress complaints. He is
there to ensure they do not take their grievances to higher authorities
and thereby add to Beijing's headaches. In any case, the national
petitions office in Beijing has shut for the northern summer.

A four-year-old foreigner was banned from holding a birthday party. Food
vendors cannot venture outside until late at night. Millions of migrant
workers have been told to return to their homes in distant provinces.
Hoteliers have been instructed to refuse beds for Chinese citizens who
are ethnically Tibetan or Uighur.

For aspiring foreign visitors, the national lock-down hits them at the
time they approach a Chinese embassy or consulate for a visa.
Businessmen who travel here every month are suddenly barred. Some
tourists who have bought Olympics tickets cannot get in. Scores of four-
and five-star hotels built to host hundreds of thousands of guests for
China's coming-out party are less than half-full and look like staying
that way.

Excluding foreigners from the Olympics is a personal innovation of the
security chief, Zhou Yongkang. Nobody beneath him, it seems, can get a
clear answer about what exactly he is trying to achieve. But the switch
has flicked to "stability", Mr Hu has turned to the hard men in his
politburo and normality can wait until some time after August 24.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank