China e-Lobby: News of the Day (January 17)

Chinese Paramilitary Police:

In the comments to the "war games" post below, Eric mentions the Chinese and Russian responses to Iran. Russia obviously has a lot to lose from nuclear terrorism, but China is also concerned about it. It's just that they're more concerned about energy supplies.

China e-Lobby has (among very many interesting links, as always) a link to this story about Chinese plans to bolster their "People's Armed Police," which is to say, government paramilitary units in form somewhat like our SWAT teams. In form, I say; not in function.

In a November video presentation, the Ministry of Public Security identified several threats to national stability, according to Chinese academics, that are echoed in the article.

Among these were growing anger and angst among Chinese as social pressure ratchets up; clashes among domestic groups over corruption, land seizures and the growing gap between rich and poor; and conflicts involving groups Beijing identifies as enemies on its periphery. The latter includes those who advocate independence for Tibet, Taiwan and the far western province of Xinjiang, sometimes referred to as "East Turkestan," as well as members of the Falun Gong religious group and Tiananmen protesters who fled overseas.

Analysts said it has become increasingly difficult for local police to handle the growing number of conflicts, given limitations on their weapons and manpower, leading to calls for a stronger paramilitary force.
Fears of a "paramilitary police force" being used in this fashion is precisely why American libertarians (and, frequently, even some sorts of conservatives and liberals) harbor deep concerns about the militarization of the American police force. (See the post "Reasonable Men," below.) But in China those aren't concerns; it's the reality.

I added the emphasis on Xinjiang, or "East Turkestan." Xinjiang is a Mandarin word that means "New Frontier," which is how China views the lands of the Muslims they have annexed. Beijing has been enthusiastic in building railroads out there, and encouraging ethnic Han Chinese -- who are about 97% of the Chinese population, if memory serves -- to move out to the frontier. Speaking of what Chinese words mean, "Han" translates properly as "true man" or "hero." You can interpret that as you wish; probably almost all societies think of their type as the most heroic, but few are so up front in declaring other sorts of men to be lesser creatures. In any event, that understanding -- rooted in culture and language -- has had an effect on the settlement of the frontier, with the result that there is, ah, "unrest." Exactly how much is not clear, given the remoteness of the province and the short leash on which Chinese state media operates.

But it isn't only its ethnic minorities against which China plans to exercise paramilitary control. It's also unruly farmers, religious minorities, and especially democracy advocates:
"Compared to normal police, the paramilitary police are designed to safeguard social stability through the use of compelling force if necessary," said He Husheng, a professor of Communist Party history at Beijing's Renmin University. "We learned from Tiananmen what happened when we used the army, which was not proper."
The tanks made for bad footage, I guess.

No comments: