China turns to police, cabdrivers to enforce orderly transition in power

 

McClatchy Newspapers

As the United States ends its political season, China’s is beginning, and Beijing would like to keep things in order. That means red banner slogans strung along roadsides, flurries of propaganda-as-news and, of course, a police crackdown.

In the coming week, officials here will trumpet the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party as an event confirming that, as one state news item recently put it, “democracy with Chinese characteristics is improving.”

Much about the meeting will be a reminder, however, that China remains an authoritarian state that often requires a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to public politics.

The congress of 2,270 delegates is set to exercise “intraparty democracy” in electing a new central committee for the party. After the congress, which starts Thursday and expected to last a week, the new central committee will convene a meeting at which the politburo and its standing committee are chosen. The seven or nine standing committee members – the new total isn’t yet known – form the nucleus of ruling power in China..

A small level of competition in voting is expected for full members of the central committee, now just above 200 seats, and, though the prospect seems slim, Reuters cited unnamed sources Tuesday as saying that the same could be true for the 25-person politburo as well. But the all-powerful standing committee almost definitely has been determined through factional jockeying behind closed doors.

And, as was the case for outgoing President and party General Secretary Hu Jintao, there’s no doubt that his replacement, Xi Jinping, will be elected the president of China next March by a second, rubber-stamping body, the National People’s Congress.

While the beginning of the 18th party congress is fixed, no specific end date has been published. In the preceding months, foreign reporters who were trying to divine when the meetings would start had kept an eye out for signs like canceled public events or particularly large floral arrangements being erected in the capital.

The assembly and its once-a-decade transition in power will be in the Great Hall of the People, an immense structure that recalls the architecture of the now-defunct Soviet Union.

China’s authoritarianism falls short of the Soviet Union’s, but it brooks very little dissent.

A story Monday by the Xinhua news wire reported that a senior security official had recently been “inspecting a security ‘moat’ project created in areas encircling Beijing for the congress’ smooth holding.” There was apparently no water involved, just a lot of police.

The story quoted Zhou Yongkang, a standing committee member who oversees domestic security, as urging authorities in Beijing and surrounding regions to form a “solid defense . . . thus creating a safe, orderly, auspicious and peaceful environment for the successful holding of the 18th National Congress.”

Amnesty International released a statement last week that gave an idea of what that might mean: More than 100 activists have been rounded up so far.

“The police have placed dozens of activists under house arrest, forcibly removed individuals from Beijing and have closed down the offices of community groups in attempts to suppress peaceful dissent,” the group said. “Scores of activists are believed to be held in ‘black jails’ across the country. . . . Hotels, hostels, basements of buildings and farm centers have all been reportedly used as black jails.”

With the congress fast approaching, Beijing taxi drivers have been told to take off the window handles from their backseats. They also were instructed to be on the lookout for passengers bearing balloons or pingpong balls that could contain subversive political messages.

During a recent cab ride past the Great Hall of the People, a passenger asked the driver what would prevent someone from hurling such forbidden objects from the front seat, where there were power windows and no handles to remove.

The reply was quick: “I am here to watch.”

Email: tlasseter@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @tomlasseter

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Samsung Electronics' 2Q profit miss forecast

    Samsung Electronics Co. reported lower-than-expected profit for the second quarter on Thursday and said it was uncertain if handset business profit would improve during the current period.

  •  
Displaced Palestinian children collect water, at the Abu Hussein U.N. school, in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  Some 3,300 Gazans seeking shelter from the fighting had been crowded into the U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp when it was hit by a series of Israeli artillery shells on Wednesday.

    AP PHOTOS: At least 17 die in Gaza school attack

    Shelling of a school crowded with refugees in Gaza early Wednesday killed at least 17 people and wounded 90 more, according to Palestinian health officials.

  •  
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2013 file photo, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin listen to a speech during the leaders' press conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali, Indonesia. Abbott and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Thursday, July 31, 2014 sent mixed messages on whether Russia was frustrating Dutch and Australian police efforts to retrieve the bodies of victims of the Malaysian airliner disaster in war-torn east Ukraine. Bishop said she feared Russia was behind the daily artillery barrages blocking police, while Abbott said it was too early to judge. Abbott has declined to follow the U.S. and European examples by ratcheting up sanctions against Russia in a bid to pressure Putin into ending his country's support for the separatists.

    Australians leaders differ on Russian role in war

    Australia's prime minister and foreign minister on Thursday sent mixed messages on whether Russia was frustrating Dutch and Australian police efforts to retrieve the bodies of victims of the Malaysian airliner disaster in war-torn east Ukraine.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category