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26-01-06, 10:42


China to 'strike hard' against rising unrest

By Chris Buckley | January 26, 2006

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is preparing to "strike hard" against rising public unrest, a senior police official said according to state media on Thursday, highlighting the government's fears for stability even as the economy booms.

An unnamed top official of China's Ministry of Public Security told a Wednesday meeting that China faced a long period of dangerous social discontent, Xinhua news agency said.

"For a considerable time to come, our country will be in a period of pronounced contradictions within the people, high crime rates, and complex struggle against enemies," the official said.

"Contradictions within the people" is a Maoist term used to describe domestic social unrest.

China was suffering many "major sudden incidents" -- a term Chinese officials use to cover riots, protests and accidents -- the official added.

"Unpredictable factors affecting social stability will increase, and trends in protecting social stability don't allow for optimism," said the official.

He also said that "terrorism is a real threat against our country" and urged officers to guard against attacks.

China says that its biggest terrorist threat comes from Xinjiang, the far western region dominated by the largely Muslim Uighur people who share a language and culture similar to Central Asian countries.

Uighur groups have campaigned for independence from China, and a few have had links with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Last week, China's Ministry of Public Security put the total number of "mass incidents" -- riots, demonstrations and smaller protests -- at a total 87,000 last year, up 6.6 percent from 2004.

The latest unusually grim police diagnosis of China's social strains comes less than a week after Premier Wen Jiabao was reported as warning that corrupt land seizures in the countryside were stoking protests and riots.

"Some locales are unlawfully occupying farmers' land and not offering reasonable economic compensation and arrangements for livelihoods, and this is sparking mass incidents in the countryside," Wen said in a speech published on January 20.

Wen said the continued "reckless occupation" of farmland threatened "the stability of the countryside and whole economy and society." He promised stricter land controls and improvements to farmers' rights and income.


But the police official promised a harsher and more traditional remedy.

Summoning harsh rhetoric that has languished in recent years while the government promoted "rule of law," the official promised to "strike hard against all sorts of terrorist activities and resolutely protect state security and social stability."

During the 1980s and 1990s, regular "strike hard" campaigns were used to fight crime and threats to order by mobilizing police and courts to catch and quickly try and sentence many thousands of citizens.

In recent years, legal reformers have criticized such campaigns as contrary to China's official embrace of rule of law and human rights.

But on Thursday, a meeting of law and order officials announced a new campaign against the "sabotage activities of cult organizations," Xinhua said in a separate report.

China calls the Falun Gong, a spiritual sect banned in 1999, a "cult" that threatens the government.

The meeting also called on officials to "strictly prevent destructive activities by terrorist forces and domestic and foreign hostile forces and elements," the report said.

Xinjiang authorities arrested more than 18,000 people there for crime, including national security offences, the region's official newspaper said last week.
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