Reacting to China’s boldest and most widespread protests in decades, the security apparatus built by Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is mobilizing on multiple fronts to quash dissent, drawing on its decades-old tool kit of repression and surveillance.
In a meeting of the party’s top security leaders, reported in state media on Tuesday, officials were ordered to “resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order.” And by evening, the demonstrations already appeared to be smaller and more scattered, with new videos emerging on social media — the main channel for news of the protests to reach a wider audience — showing only groups of residents in several different locked-down developments demanding to be freed.
At the same time, the government announced that it would step up vaccinations of older adults. That move is deemed crucial to easing China’s tight Covid controls that have fueled public anger, signaling that as Beijing suppresses dissent, it is also moving to address the problem underlying the protests.
Public security personnel and vehicles have blanketed potential protest sites. Police officers are searching some residents’ phones for prohibited apps. Officials are going to the homes of would-be protesters to warn them against illegal activities and are taking some away for questioning. Censors are scrubbing protest symbols and slogans from social media.
The campaign is being carried out by a security apparatus Mr. Xi has upgraded in pursuit of unshakable dominance. He has expanded the police forces, promoted loyal security leaders into key positions and declared that “political security” — for him and for the party — must be the bedrock of national security. [Continue reading…]