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China’s state security goon show: comedy or tragedy?

Posted by Author on October 26, 2010

By Peter Foster, The Telegraph, UK, October 26th, 2010 –

China is currently experiencing a series of anti-Japanese protests which have been popping up every other day or so in cities across the south.

Today it was the turn of Chongqing where 2,000 or so people marched calling for a boycott of Japanese goods and chanting “down with the Japanese devlis!” according to local news reports.

The Chinese government doesn’t normally tolerate protests but is making an exception for these which, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesman are “the spontaneous acts by some Chinese people to express indignation for Japan’s recent erroneous deeds and acts.”

The government is playing with fire, however, since the protests are also being used by some people to air internal grievances.
For example banners seen in photographs taken at a demonstration in Baoji, Shaanxi province last Sunday said things like “Brother Ying-jeou [the president of Taiwan], welcome back to mainland China,” – a dig a China’s Communist rulers who drove the Nationalist Kuomintang from China to Taiwan before taking power in 1949.

“Implement freedom of the press” said another, “Narrow the gap between the rich and the poor,” a third. “We protest at the high price of housing.” And “Promote the coordination of multiple political parties.”

It’s a strange thing about paranoid China that you can get away with this kind of stuff, but not always.

The Chinese “twittersphere” is currently fizzing with the story of a twenty-something girl who is said to have been arrested at 2am after publishing a tweet on Sunday evening promising to unfurl a banner saying “Congratulations Uncle Xiaobo!” at today’s Chongqing protest.

This, obviously, in a show of support for this year’s Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo who is serving an 11-year jail sentence for subverting state power.

It’s not clear if the girl, who goes by the net name of “Qingfeng” (fresh-wind) was serious, but she found herself in trouble on Monday night at around 11pm when two officers from the Public Security Bureau showed up at the house where she apparently lives with her parents.

There then ensued a stand-off, as her parents remonstrated with the officers while the girl was upstairs tweeting to anyone who would listen.

“Guys, I am online now,” she wrote breathlessly, “The public security police are outside our house. My mum refused to let them in.”

A few minutes she posted another message saying the officers had been driven away by her parents: “Of the two police officers, one was from the PSB and another was the deputy chief of Yangjiaping police station (of Jiulongpo district). My parents’ visions were both not good enough to identify their names. But they did not show any work certificates.”

The girl was then taken away at 2.00am on Monday night/Tuesday morning according to other reports, presumably after the cops had return with some ID, or whatever it was that had stopped them before.

It’s hard to know what to take from this exchange but it does provide an insight into the ground realities of Control China 2010.

Should we be cheered by the fact that the girl’s astigmatic parents knew their rights and the cops didn’t feel sufficiently empowered to push their way in? Not exactly the Stasi, then.

Should we just laugh at the faintly farcical nature of the encounter? Or perhaps we should wait until Qingfeng is released.

Perhaps we should marvel darkly at the sheer manpower involved in knocking the door of a girl who sent out a tweet about Liu Xiaobo? Chongqing is a municipality of 30 million people. If things really got out of hand, surely they’d run out of goons? They’d have to.

Or maybe despair at petty-minded paranoia of China’s security apparatus that is so incongruous to so much of modern Chinese society. It’s like a bad joke – and not a funny one if you’re Liu Xiaobo or the hundreds of others who’ve been harassed and put under house arrest.

I pass on all this only because sometimes you have to wonder just how long the Party can keep this up?

The Telegraph

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