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China tightens control to maintain order
Expenditure on security now bigger than defenseChing Cheong (far right) and Willy Lam Wo-lap (second left) at the seminar
- ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong
- March 21, 2012
However, a wave of social unrest across the country has prompted the government to drastically increase spending on national public security with a budget that exceeds expenditure on national defense.
It is the first time this has happened since the founding of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China in 1949, said Willy Lam Wo-lap, a journalist turned commentator on Chinese politics.
This yearâ€™s budget for maintaining order is more than 700 billion yuan (US$110 billion) and was announced during the recent plenary meeting of the National Peopleâ€™s Congress, or Chinaâ€™s parliament.
The number of police officers has also increased remarkably in recent years. In 2011, there were about 2 million police officers nationwide, equal to the size of Chinaâ€™s army.
Behind them, are those with vested interests forming a conservative counter-force to reforms, he pointed out.
Local officials tend to exaggerate the gravity of social instability and link violent protests with the â€śinfiltration of Western powersâ€ť in order to demand more funds from the central government, he said.
Then they spend the money on recruiting policemen and agents, buying weapons and equipment to turn the country into a police state, especially in unstable border areas.
â€śIn Urumqi, capital of the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, one in every two taxi drivers is a part-time agent, who report on their passengers to the government if they look suspicious,â€ť said Lam, quoting a reliable source.
â€śThe unlimited expansion of a control network is a gross obstacle to Chinaâ€™s long-term democratic development,â€ť he warned.
The government in Beijing will spend even more money on maintaining internal stability after the change in the Communist leadership later this year, he predicted in a Church-organized seminar on March 18.
Lam was among three veteran journalists invited by the Hong Kong Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) to share their views at the first of three seminars themed on the current situation in China.
Another speaker, Ching Cheong, said an average of 500 mass protests took place each day last year, where people tried to defend their land rights, the environment, and fought against corruption.
This amounted to around 182,500 protests for the whole year, which is three times more than 10 years ago, he said.
Despite the scale of social unrest, Ching believes the Communist regime is not under serious threat because of Chinaâ€™s â€śuniqueâ€ť social structure in which the huge rural population has a â€śpoor awarenessâ€ť when it comes to revolt.
Ching said that in a recent protest in Wukan, in southern Guangdong province, villagersâ€™ slogans called for central government to punish corrupt officials rather than resist the regime itself.
New protest escalates over power plant
Official says Wukan protests show rights demands on rise
Donâ€™t push people to extremes