BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top police officer has warned that the nation’s security forces are struggling keep pace with an increasingly assertive society, and he demanded defter quelling of protests and stricter oversight of the Internet.
In an essay that appeared on Tuesday, China’s Minister of Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, said the nation’s police suffer “glaring problems and weak links that urgently demand solution”.
Meng targeted gaps in control of the Internet and poor handling of protests and riots as failings that could erode Communist Party control over a society being transformed by rapid economic growth and new values.
“Social conflicts of all kinds are increasingly inter-meshed, complex and sensitive, presenting fresh challenges for the public security agencies,” Meng wrote in the essay in the latest issue of the ruling Communist Party’s Chinese-language magazine, Seeking Truth (Qiushi). The essay also appeared on the magazine’s website (http://www.qstheory.cn).
“Public awareness of law and rights has clearly grown, and the intensity of scrutiny (of police) from public opinion and society is unprecedented,” he added.
Chinese officials, keen to be seen as guarding Party authority, often demand vigilance against unrest. That unrest has grown in past years, but the Party’s overall control has remained unshaken, shored up by rapid economic growth in the face of the global slowdown.
But the warning from the nation’s top police officer showed that leaders remain nervous as they seek to rule a population of 1.3 billion heading through a cascade of profound economic and social changes.
Meng demanded faster and more sophisticated extinguishing of riots and protests, and stricter control over the country’s already heavily censored Internet.
“As soon as a mass incident breaks out, we must ensure that it is quickly located, reported and brought under control,” Meng wrote. “Mass incidents” is a term Chinese officials use to refer to protests, riots and mass petitions.
Police forces needed to become more skilled at coordinating and sharing information, overcoming entrenched bureaucratic boundaries, Meng wrote. He demanded more specialist forces and equipment to break up mass unrest.
In 2007, China had over 80,000 “mass incidents”, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Many involved no more than dozens of participants protesting against local officials over complaints about corruption, abuse of power, pollution or poor wages.
But some small-town protests in the past couple of years have snowballed into violent confrontations involving thousands of residents, many of hearing of the unrest through mobile phone messages or over the Internet.
Deadly riots in the ethnically-divided western region of Xinjiang in July also underscored the potency of modern communications in spreading seeds of discontent.
Authorities needed to intensify oversight of the Internet, guarding against signs of unrest and ideas and information damaging to Party control, wrote Meng.
“The Internet has become an important means for anti-China forces to engage in infiltration and sabotage,” Meng wrote. “Give greater prominence to correct guidance of Internet opinion,” he added.
Editing by David Fox