31st March 2011
The disappearance and then equally strange reappearance of former Chinese diplomat and now Australian spy novelist, Yang Hengjun, a critic of China’s human rights abuses in an internet blog that has a wide audience in China, appears another sign that Chinese conservatives are increasingly in the ascendency in the country. Widely believed to have been detained by China’s Secret Police, Radio Australia now reports friends say he has contacted them saying he had been ill and in hospital. But they reportedly say there was something “strange” about his manner, when he made those calls.
Sydney Morning Herald’s John Garnaut believes the arrest could have been a “stuff-up” where local security officials got ahead of their overlords in Beijing. Yang has now been released, it is believed, on the understanding that he now behaves in a way that allows the authorities to save face in advance of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s pending visit to China.
Nevertheless, it is becoming clear that there is a crackdown on any evidence of dissent by Beijing spooked by events in the Middle East. In an apparent lurch to the right, whereas China’s previous five-year plans were generally focused on the economy and little else, the latest, released at the end of the National People’s Congress (NPC) last week, outlines a new imperative of imposing tighter control over the populace.
According to author, journalist and academic Dr Willy Wo-Lap Lam, the Blueprint contains lengthy sections on buttressing public security, tackling “mass incidents”, as well as implementing “social management” (shehui guanli), which are code words for boosting socio-political stability. New social-management offices are being set up nationwide with at least one such unit for every major street in big cities as well as for each of the country’s 40,000-odd towns and rural townships.
In an apparent reaction to the estimated 100,000-odd mass incidents – including riots and disturbances – that had struck the country annually since the late 2000s, the Blueprint disclosed for the first time the CCP leadership’s elaborate plans to build a nationwide “yingji xitong (rapid-response system) for tackling emergency incidents”.
While no deadline has been mentioned, this labyrinthine wei-wen (“upholding stability”) apparatus, which is under the overall supervision of the CCP, is expected to be put together by 2015 with a budget for 2011 set at 624.4 billion yuan (US$95.18 billion) – 23.3 billion yuan ($3.55 billion) more than that of the PLA.
Also significant is the Blueprint’s recommendation that “social organizations” (shehui zuzhi), which is the official term of Chinese-style non-governmental organizations (NGOs), be put under tighter government surveillance. The document noted that NGOs should be subject to a system of controls that consists of “a synthesis of legal supervision, government supervision, social supervision and self-supervision”. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/MC31Ad02.html