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Beijing's Terror of Dissent

Date: Monday, 11-August-2008
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By Don Robertson
Epoch Times
August 9, 2008

When the Chinese Communist Party talks of "terrorism," foreignonlookers have to be aware that their definition is different from ours.

When most of us think of a terrorist group we think of ruthless actsthat harm the people, such as suicide bombings or biological attacks.We might think of a group that has aspirations to install afundamentalist government and rule by fear.

But when the Communist Party talks of a threat, they think of groupsthat threaten their power over the people. The groups themselvesdon't have to be violent, but the regime will stop at no violence inattacking these groups and stop at no measure on the general populaceto weed them out.

This distinction could not be clearer than in the Party's"anti-terrorist" measures leading up to the Beijing Olympics. 'Whoare those terrorists?' we ask. 'Al Qaeda? Jemaah Islamiyah?' Well,yes, it's them too. But it's mostly people and groups that we wouldconsider harmless, even glorious -- famous democracy activists, theDalai Lama and his followers, practitioners of Falun Gong meditationand the Uyghurs of the far-western Xinjiang Province.

Two of the most famous Chinese democracy activists, Chen Ziming andWang Juntao, gave a lecture in Sydney last week, and I didn't see theAustralian Government taking measures against them. The Dalai Lama isa Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Smiling old ladies give out Falun Gongflyers in the streets. When we're talking about these people, theword "terror" certainly doesn't come to my mind.

But they were the "main terrorist threats" named by Li Wei, thedirector of government think-tank the Anti-terrorism Research Centreat the Institute of Chinese Modern International Relations. "We can'tneglect the threats from international terrorism forces either," MrLi adds in the July 4 report in state media, almost as anafterthought, "though their threats are not big."

So how is the regime preparing to deal with these groups? With theinfantry, navy and air force, said Tian Yixiang, Head of MilitaryWork Section of Beijing Olympic Security Coordination Group in astate media report on July 8. Mr Tian named exactly these groups asthe main threats. No mention of Al Qaeda.

It's these people that are targeted in dragnets installed aroundBeijing, should they come to the capital to appeal. All vehiclesentering and leaving the capital undergo a "safety check," to see ifthey have a permit to enter Beijing. There are even reports thattrain commuters in Hebei Province have been ordered to trample on aphoto of Falun Gong's founder Li Hongzhi, with those who refuse being arrested.

In addition, frighteningly reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution,ordinary people have been mobilised into a "social safety controlsystem", making them personally responsible for security in theirdesignated area. They include work units, organisations and teams oflocal residents, who can be seen in the streets of Beijing wearingbright red armbands.

A leaked document from the Central Political and Judiciary AffairsCommittee gives a glimpse into that network. "All levels should signletters of responsibility with management objectives, get clear oftheir responsibilities one by one, study the measures to implementtask by task and assign tasks unit by unit, individual byindividual," says the document, dated February 19.

It's an enormous operation to silence dissent and it functions at alllevels of society. Yet still a lot of Western media outlets,strangely unable to find a dissenting voice, tell us that the Chinesepeople like it this way.

But that's not what interviews by The Epoch Times uncovered. Beijingresidents told us by phone that they are living in fear.

"It's as if the whole society has been put on duty," Beijing residentMs Zhou said, "with leaflets distributed everywhere telling us thatif we see suspicious people, or people coming to Beijing to appeal,or people passing out leaflets, we have to report them."

Beijing resident Mr Ma said: "Transport is really inconvenient. Ifyou go out, maybe you're a little busy and you forget your ID?thatmeans big trouble. There's a sign on our street that says 'report anyforeigners to the police' and there are leaflets stipulating allkinds of rules. They are scared that city residents will tellforeigners about the real situation here. We're all put under a lotof pressure."

Chen Wang said: "It's as if a national disaster is upon us. Theauthorities response is 'if you are inconvenienced, pleaseunderstand'. It's just like during the SARS period, society has beensealed up, with restrictions on movement and interaction, people whocome in from outside have to apply and register."

For sure, security during any big event is important. And we are toldby state media that authorities have already foiled several terrorist attacks.

But a quick look at the main targets tells us what these"anti-terrorist" measures are really about. They are about targetinggroups and individuals that would not be feared in a free and opensociety. They are about ensuring the world only sees what the Partywants us to see. They are about terrorising the Chinese people toensure the Party's stability, because the Chinese Communist Party isterrified of dissent.

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