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Saturday, November 13, 2004

 

Spectre of unhappy, organised masses haunts CPC

The Communist Party of China is worried that mass protests occurring throughout China could lead to the collapse of its control. "The Soviet Union used to be the world's number one socialist country, but overnight the country broke up and political power collapsed," Vice President Zeng Qinghong wrote last month in the CPC’s People's Daily.

"One important reason was that in their long time in power, their system of governing became rigid, their ability to govern declined, people were dissatisfied with what the officials accomplished, and the officials became seriously isolated from the masses," Zeng said, as quoted by The Washington Post.

There were more than 58,000 major incidents of social unrest in the country last year, about 160 per day on average, according to the Communist Party magazine Outlook. That was an increase of 15 percent over 2002 and nearly seven times the figure reported by the government just a decade ago.

Another study of police statistics, by Murray Scot Tanner, a scholar at US-based Rand Corp, concluded the demonstrations were growing in size while violence, including attacks on party and state officials, was also on the rise. He said statistics indicate the number of "mass incidents" jumped from 8,700 in 1993 to 32,000 in 1999 and has kept increasing.

Most protestors appear to be victims of the economic disruption caused by the change to a market economy in the Peoples Republic of China and who have been unable to protect their rights through approved channels.

The PRC’s courts received nearly four million petition cases in total last year; the national legislature had nearly 20,000 petitioners, one-third more than in 2002, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Communist Party officials argue that the CPC’s recent call to improve governance is an attempt to address this problem by making officials more responsive to the public and less corrupt. But the party continues to rule out democratic reform as an option.

“Except in the largest, most volatile situations, the government's approach is to monitor demonstrations and allow them to end peacefully. It reacts later, in some cases addressing the complainants' issues, but almost always aggressively prosecuting the organizers to send a message that further activities will not be tolerated,” the Chicago Tribune commented.
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In one recent example in Beijing, the police declined to use force when suburban villagers - upset over a government land deal - blocked school buses bringing foreign children to the International School of Beijing. A few days later, the police rounded up seven or eight protesters and pressed serious criminal charges against three of them.

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