On Monday, Chinese state media agency Procuratorial Daily reported the launch of a special task force in China to strengthen political policing and to maintain social stability.
This task force would aim to “strike hard on activities that could undermine China’s political security,” and combat disputes sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, including matters such as the reopening of businesses, social welfare and employment.
According to the report, the first meeting was held “recently” to establish the mission of the task force.
“[We] must keep our vigilance and stay on high alert at all times, and hit hard on subversive activities, terrorist acts, ethnic secession and religious extremism in accordance with the law,” read a statement from the report.
Formed as part of the “Build a Peaceful China” coordination group, the task force is led by Guo Shengkun, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) top law enforcement figure as well as the head of the party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. Guo also oversees all police officers, spies, courts, prosecutors and prisons on the mainland.
Originally, the task force was split into two streams; one to maintain social order and the other to contain security risks at the municipal level. However, rising tensions in the international community in recent months have led the force to shift their focus to safeguarding political security against the influence of foreign criticism.
According to the report, the government can only protect its people if the political environment is safe.
On its official WeChat account on Monday, the CCP politics and law commission said that protecting political security is a top priority “amid a changing global situation.” It pointed to challenges including American politicians “deflecting blame” onto China for its failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, “intervention” by the United States, Taiwan and Australia in internal affairs regarding the Hong Kong situation, as well as the recent border conflicts with India.
The creation of this new task force in China also comes amid arising dissent and criticism within its own borders.
On Monday, Xu Zhangrun, an outspoken law professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, was taken away by police due to consorting with prostitutes, according to a close friend.
However, it is suspected that the real reason for his detainment was due to his scathing criticisms of President Xi Jinping and the CCP in a series of political essays published last month.
Xu had previously been placed under house arrest for criticizing President Xi’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In one of his most recent essays published in May, Xu said China was “backtracking toward Mao Zedong’s totalitarian rule,” adding that “It is high time for China to turn wrongs to rights and return to the path pursuing a modern constitutional democracy and a people’s republic.”
When asked about Xu at a regular news conference on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that he had no information about Xu’s arrest.
As China appears to be cracking down on security matters both in the mainland and in neighboring Hong Kong, some believe that the new political security task force is in fact being established to focus on the new issues that have emerged in recent months.
Gu Su, a political scientist at Nanjing University stated that “Bodies such as the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security down to the municipal level are already doing the job of [ensuring] political security, and the [CCP’s] Commission for Political and Legal Affairs itself is already overseeing inter-agency coordination.”
“But Beijing may think that it needs more effective and narrowly focused inter-agency coordination on political security given the impact of the pandemic on public opinion and economic performance,” he added.
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