By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
First Published July 29, 2007
Updated August 6, 2007
In China, the people have no right of assembly or to free speech. The media is severely limited and the central government would prefer that the only voice of the media in China came from the state agency: Xinhua.
The government of Beijing is increasingly worried about and sensitive to assemblies of groups and potential for disorder.
No To AIDS Conference
China just today cancelled an HIV/AIDS conference and seminar.
“Authorities informed us that the combination of AIDS, law and foreigners was too sensitive,” Sara Davis, on the organizers of the conference told Reuters.
The nations invited, and presumably these were the nations China objected to, were: South Africa, India, the United States, Canada and Thailand.
Catholic Priests Detained
In another case of China’s paranoia, several Catholic priests were detained this weekend. Their crime? China’s 12 million Catholics share the same basic religious beliefs but are politically divided between “above-ground” churches approved by the ruling Communist Party and “underground” churches that reject government ties. The priests detained are said to be from the “underground church.”
A picture begins to emerge of a communist Chinese government that does not permit gatherings of just a handful of people unless the government has approved both the topic of discussion and the participants.
Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, China has been at least extremely sensitive and some might say paranoid about groups, assembly and free speech.
Any hint of not following Beijing to the letter is termed “social instability.”
Illegal Government Land Grabbing
Government “appropriation” (or rather, misappropriation) of peasant farms and other lands is the largest root source of assemblies, riots, other forms of civil unrest and “social instability.”
“This is the foremost issue in rural areas and probably the most contentious issue leading to social unrest in China today,” Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based China researcher with Human Rights Watch said.
The issue of the illegal seizure of land by thge government is also the single most important reason for protests in Vietnam.
There were 130,000 cases of illegal land grabs last year in China, an increase of 17.3 percent from 2005, the land ministry said in March.
Mr. Bequelin said these 130,000 are just the reported cases. He believes there may be 100,000 other cases or more. He noted past official estimates that 50-60 percent of all land deals in China were illegal, rising to 90 percent in many places.
“The crux of the issue is that governments at all levels plunder the land resources, the commoners see little if any of the money and violators get off scot-free,” said Hou Guoyan, a retired professor from the China University of Political Science and Law.
Beijing has also issued a series of regulations aimed at increasing scrutiny, but experts say the central government does not have enough power to enforce the law in the provinces.
“The (central) government is at a loss to solve the problem,” Hou said.
This is the “social instability” Beijing fears.
Enforcing ‘State Policy’
The central government is also having a great deal of trouble enforcing many other of its own communist state policies.
Earlier this year, in Bobai county in the region of Guangxi, thousands of villagers rioted, burning cars and clashing with police, after being fined for breaching the one-child policy.
China allows couples to only bring into the world one child. Villagers in Bobai were violating this rule. When police cracked down to enforce the law, violence erupted.
Central Beijing was caught off guard and proved itself completely incapable of an appropriate response.
Then, on August 5, 2007, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported the nation’s top family planning agency has cracked down on crude and insensitive slogans used by rural authorities to enforce the country’s strict population limits.
Slogans such as ‘Raise fewer babies but more piggies,’ and ‘One more baby means one more tomb,’ have been forbidden and a list of 190 acceptable slogans issued by the National Population and Family Planning Commission, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
After the “One Child Riot,” Beijing authorities found out about the ugly and demeaning slogans from rioters. Beijing bureaucrats admitted they had no idea how the “One Child Policy” was being administered or policed in the countryside.
Other incidents of people in the countryside ignoring Beijing are common.
Pollution Regulations IgnoredAfter China pledged to contain and even reduce its huge pollution problem and its contributions to greenhouse gases, the people in the countryside were disturbed. When the new environmental requirements trickled down to the provinces and the countryside, they were and are being ignored.
Local governments in China are continuing to invest in dirty, resource-intense industries, jeopardizing Beijing’s goals of saving energy and cutting pollution. Some regions are encouraging steel, cement and other heavy industries to boost economic growth despite demands from Beijing to rein in those sectors, the China Daily newspaper reported.
When it first became apparent that local governments were ignoring Beijing on pollution issues, Beijing threatened local communist leaders. Their promotions were tied to environments goals. But this scheme was an utter failure. Fearing a total revolt of local communist officials, Beijing rescinded the edict on July 21, 2007.
In other cases of a disconnect between Beijing and the countryside, good intentions can go horribly wrong.
In 2005, Chinese farmers, acting with the approval and encouragement of government officials, tried to suppress major bird flu outbreaks among chickens with an antiviral drug meant for humans, animal health experts said. International researchers concluded that this is why the drug will no longer protect people in case of a worldwide bird flu epidemic.
Summer Olympics 2008
China is already preparing to “manage and control” crowds, assembly and protests at next summer’s Beijing Olympics. The gathering of information on foreigners who might mount protests and spoil the nation’s moment in the spotlight has already commenced. The central Beijing government is already preparing lists of potentially troublesome foreign organizations, looking beyond the human rights groups long critical of Beijing.
Among those targeted as “potential protest and assembly groups”? American Evangelical Christians.
China watchers we have been in contact with cited this as another example of Beijing’s paranoia.
But Beijing defends its actions as necessary for the safety of all involved in the Olympics, even Americans.
“Demonstrations of all kinds are a concern, including anti-American demonstrations,” said the consultant, who works for Beijing’s Olympic organizers and asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The government, he said, is “trying to find out what kinds of NGOs will come. … What are their plans?”
While foreign governments often monitor potentially disruptive groups ahead of big events, Beijing this time is ranging farther afield, targeting groups whose activities would be considered legal in most countries.
Local Communist Authorities Threatened
During the first week of July 2007, China ordered local authorities to address the root causes of rising public discontent, according to state media sources. China watchers consider this yet another sign of growing concern over social stability from Beijing.
Local officials have been told they will be denied promotions unless they minimize social unrest in their areas, Xinhua news agency quoted a top Community Party official as saying.
In summary, the communist government in Beijing is insisting on total control of all its 1.3 billion people and its vast countryside. But in many cases, China’s central government in Beijing is being resisted or ignored.