A document issued by authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui and leaked on the Internet has exposed in detail a slew of draconian security measures to be put in place ahead of annual parliamentary sessions in March.
Published on the overseas Chinese news website Canyu, the document orders local officials to step up intelligence activities among the local population and to focus in particular on “hostile foreign forces” who might try to collaborate with local activists to organize “subversive” gatherings.
In it, the Anhui authorities are ordered to begin round-the-clock surveillance of Internet activity, along with monitoring of text messages and microblog posts, and to rapidly delete or block any offending content.
“Anyone engaging in subversion or making connections [between different groups] on the Internet should immediately be subject to investigation and dealt with according to law,” the document said.
The document also called on officials to “seek out petitioning activities that are beginning to sprout,” and to “pay attention to news and developments that might have an impact on stability” and immediately report them to the Anhui provincial government.
“This will prevent or lessen the large-scale petitioning and mass incidents that take place during the parliamentary sessions at source,” the document said.
The annual sessions of the National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber stamp parliament, and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are typically held in March.
The CPPCC is responsible for advising the NPC and providing a voice for groups and individuals outside the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The forthcoming leadership transition at the 18th ruling Chinese Communist Party Congress later this year has sparked a raft of additional security measures across the country, with the authorities on high alert in the wake of online calls for protests inspired by the Arab Spring.
Hubei-based writer and commentator Liu Yiming said it is extremely rare for Chinese netizens to catch a glimpse of such “stability”-related measures, which are seldom written down so formally.
“The encoding of such things in a document is usually quite taboo, but now it is written there clearly for all to see,” Liu said.
“We see what they are telling the lower-ranking officials to do in order to preserve social stability, and how they should implement it,” he said.
“The government is trying everything it can to preserve social stability and to protect the one-party system.”
Similar orders elsewhere?
Liu said that measures similar to those outlined by the Anhui provincial government are likely to be implemented everywhere else in China in the run-up to the Party Congress.
“They will do everything they can to stop people petitioning and to stop them taking to the streets,” he said.
Shanghai-based rights activist Xu Zhengqing said the authorities are currently in a state of high alert for the slightest sign of trouble for fear it could loosen the Party’s grip on power.
“Events in the Middle East and North Africa in particular have made them increasingly sensitive,” Xu said.
“They are afraid that a series of large-scale mass incidents will lead to the collapse of the political system … so they block everything to stop news getting in from outside.”
He said the Anhui authorities were almost certainly acting on orders from much higher up.
“These orders … are all implemented under the unifying direction of the central government’s politics and law committee,” Xu said.
“The fact that there exists such a document in Anhui means that there must be documents like this all over the rest of the country as well.”
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.