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Chinese citizens decry ‘mass policing’ plan

President Xi Jinping and his administration are turning neighborhoods into prisons, critics allege

Chinese police patrol a night market near Id Kah Mosque in Xinjiang, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, June 25, 2017.

Chinese police patrol a night market near Id Kah Mosque in Xinjiang, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, June 25, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Published: November 16, 2023 10:59 AM GMT

Updated: November 16, 2023 11:26 AM GMT

Chinese citizens including political commentators have slammed a planned move by the communist government that aims to increase surveillance in the neighborhoods, says a report.

The plan seeks to shift local law enforcement from police stations to neighborhood "grids," Radio Free Asia (RFAreported on Nov. 14.

Following a Public Security Ministry directive in March, the authorities have begun laying off auxiliary police officers and outsourcing the policing work to neighborhood officials, the report said.

The new “grid management system” aims to implement "grassroots social governance," through partnerships with local "vigilante" groups and local Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.

A resident in Shanghai identifying himself only by his surname Zhang over fear of reprisals alleged that the authorities were expanding surveillance and considering the people as their “enemy.”

"They have expanded the scope of their surveillance activities so it's as if they are playing Go [a strategy-based board game], surrounding you piece by piece. That's what they call grid management," Zhang said.

"If a problem emerges in the grid, they will surround it immediately – the people are regarded as the enemy – it's not a people's government anymore," Zhang lamented.

According to reports, the grid management system carves up neighborhoods into a grid pattern with 15-20 households in each square with a dedicated monitor who reports back on residents' affairs to neighborhood committees, the lowest rung in the government hierarchy.

Several police stations in Guangdong have been shut down "to effectively integrate existing police resources" and improve standardization, RFA reported.

Cost-cutting and stability maintenance

A Guangdong resident identifying himself only by the name Liao pointed out that the government move was aimed at cost-cutting and “stability maintenance.”

"Stability maintenance measures are getting stricter and stricter," Liao lamented.

In China, stability maintenance is a system of coercion and surveillance that seeks to prevent acts of defiance against the CCP before they take place.

China is no stranger to implementing mass law enforcement measures to suppress any threats against the government.

Reportedly, the authorities have previously mobilized large numbers of residents known locally as “red armbands” or “Chaoyang aunties” to act as their eyes and ears during major events and high-level political meetings.

However, the new “grid management system” aims to make such mobilizations permanent as local officials have been granted law enforcement powers and are recruiting "grid officers" across the country, reports say.

Multiple police stations in the Shandong region are also slated to be merged, RFA said citing local media reports.

‘Aiding the Fengqiao experience’

The layoffs and addition of local personnel are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent calls for a "Fengqiao experience," which references the mass mobilization of citizens to aid law enforcement and policing during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), RFA reported.

Ma Ju, a current affairs commentator, had told RFA after the release of a policing action plan in March that these personnel are like the personnel mobilized during the Olympics and parliamentary sessions in Beijing in previous years.

"Such social control will both strengthen the internal stability maintenance system and set up a volunteer police force, extending the use of Chaoyang aunties across the country to safeguard the regime," Ma said.

An unnamed resident familiar with the new policing system said that the “grid officers” were well-suited to manage the residents.

"The auxiliary police can only take orders from the police station and carry out specific tasks like maintaining community order and helping the police with law enforcement duties," the unnamed resident said.

"But grid officers deal with residents all day long, and they are better than the police. They understand the dynamics of local communities on the ground," the unnamed resident added.

Hu Ping, a veteran current affairs commentator pointed out that the president and his administration are expanding the prisons into the neighborhoods.

"In his [Xi’s] mind, there are enemies everywhere," Hu said.

"There isn't enough room in prison for so many people, so they are expanding [the restrictions of prison] into society at large,” Hu alleged.

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