Since the financial crisis has roiled the world’s economies, the Chinese government has been on high alert against incidents of social unrest. A new book titled 2009: The Year of China’s Zodiac Sign by Zhang Zhongwei, explores one of the Chinese government’s strategies for dealing with unrest: the “Stability Preservation Leading Group Office (维稳办),” operated by the Communist Party Central Committee with branches at every local level, through which volunteers help keep surveillance over local activities since 2006. Duowei News reports, translated by CDT’s Japhet Weeks:
Zhang Zhongwei, who has a background in political science, told this reporter: Political and Legislative Affairs Committee secretary Zhou Yongkang, who heads up the Communist Party Central Committee Leader Group Tasked With Preserving Stability, is a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. But Xi Jinping is the highest leader who is really in charge. Underneath this “Leader Group,” the “Stability Preservation Office” was set up and the head of the office is Communist Party Central Committee member and Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Public Security Liu Jing (刘京).
Zhang Zhongwei explains, the “Stability Preservation Office,” the Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security, and the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, all have different methods of responding; each uses its own trade secrets to quickly suppress “elements that endanger stability.” They have also expanded the number of “stability preservation information officers to wage a ‘people’s war’.”
“The Committee for the Preservation of Stability” isn’t kept secret at all – in many documents it’s referred to by members of the press as “eyes and ears.” For example, Sun Gang Street in Shenzhen’s Luohu district, in a single day — July 25, 2008 – appointed 59 people to be “eyes and ears” as volunteer information officers to the Committee for Preserving Stability and Comprehensive Management. Their mandate was: Spread out into every corner of every district and notify someone immediately of any sort of destabilizing activity: “Discover early, investigate early, resolve early.” Someone with experience in the Stability Preservation Department in Luxi County in Jiangxi Province said: There are more “eyes and ears” in villages where more incidents occur. And in Taxia Village, Yichun City, Jiangxi Province, propaganda is being disseminated throughout the countryside: “Protect stability by contacting an information officer to check up on suspicious activity.” They also ask: “Each information officer should sign up at least 5 other people to be eyes and ears, and have them endorsed by the city’s Stability Preservation Office.”
Zhang Zhongwei thinks that the “Stability Preservation Office” is really a way of using the virtuous cause of preserving stability in order to inform on legitimate civic and political activity, and to weave together the largest network of people in history to be the government’s eyes and ears everywhere, and to monitor people all the time. From the perspective of the authorities, protecting stability is a matter of controlling all trends; if you want complete control, you need everyone to inform against everyone else. But like the poet Shao Yanxiang said, “If all around you there are spies and moles, people will live under constant surveillance, and in constant fear of being denounced.”
Also according to Hong Kong-based Singtao News, on March 15, a group of experts from academic and non-governmental research agencies held a conference in Beijing to discuss “mass social incidents” in China. Unlike many other non-official academic conferences, this conference was directly participated in by the Ministry of Public Security and the “Stability Preservation Office” of the Central Committee’s Politics and Law Committee.
The participants of the conference included members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese University of Politics and Law, People’s University, China’s Public Security University and Shanghai University of Politics and Law; experts in law and sociology, including Yu Jianrong (于建嵘), a government researcher, and also lawyer Zhang Xingshui (张星水), an human rights lawyer who has been marginalized by the government in the past. Policy researcher Li Hui, from the Number 3 Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, also made a presentation at the conference.
According to the Singtao News article, the central government has been taking extraordinary measures to prevent “mass incidents” since the international financial crisis started. More than 2000 county party secretaries came for a training program in November 2008, and in February 2009, over 3000 county-level heads of public security bureaus, in seven batches, came to Beijing for training. The presentations from this March 15th conference will be collected and printed as government “internal references.”
Photo: The head of the “Stability Preservation Office”，Communist Party Central Committee member and Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Public Security Liu Jing (刘京) （Source: Duowei News)