Chinese Growing Resistance to Repression

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Xi Jinping

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Chinese Communist Party is losing the fight to repress its citizens as they increasingly resist the authorities despite intense crackdown on their rights

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jan. 26, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

A NEW report issued by the Freedom House January 13, has said that Chinese Communist Party repression has intensified under the leadership of Xi Jinping, but has also trapped the party in a vicious circle whereby increasing coercion breeds growing resistance, requiring ever more intense crackdowns.

The report entitled: The Politburo’s Predicament: Confronting the Limitations of Chinese Communist Party Repression said: “There is a clear change in how Xi Jinping is managing the censorship and security apparatus compared with his predecessor, and overall this has meant more restrictions, not more freedom.”

Authored by Sarah Cook, the report said: “As the systems of coercion touch the lives of more Chinese people, Xi and his colleagues risk exacerbating the party’s legitimacy problems.”

It finds that Xi has combined quasi-reformist rhetoric and minor institutional changes with ideological retrenchment and intensified repression in an attempt to strengthen the party’s hold on power. These efforts have proved effective in many ways, but they have also fueled resentment and recruitment to the cause of rights defense, both within society and among some party members, security personnel, and censors.

“The United States and other democracies should work together to more effectively assist victims of repression and challenge official impunity,” Cook said, citing the report’s list of recommendations. “They should also seriously reconsider assumptions that the Communist Party will rule indefinitely, and that any liberalization will come from the top down.”

The key findings of the report include concentration of power at the very top: ultimate authority over information controls and domestic security has been consolidated in the hands of Xi himself via new party entities.

Sarah Cook
Cook

There is also an expanded targets of repression. Of 17 categories of victims assessed, 11 experienced greater restrictions after Xi took power. Among the victims are new targets whose activities were previously tolerated, including individuals from the economic elite or with official ties.

There is also a revival of old practices alongside new methods. Tactics and terminology reminiscent of the Mao Zedong era—including televised confessions—have been revived alongside more novel approaches. Increasingly strategic, multipronged campaigns, criminal and extralegal detentions, and the “community corrections” system have been used to punish activists and intimidate social-media users.

In the midst of repression, the report found that the civil society has remained resilience. Despite heightened repression, fear of the regime appears to be diminishing. Civic participation in rights defense activities is growing. Banned information circulates despite censorship. And activities that the authorities have invested tremendous resources in suppressing have continued and even expanded.

A deep sense of insecurity and internal resistance on the part of the regime has increase repression. Some of those tasked with implementing censorship, propaganda, and repression are instead showing sympathy with victims, quietly refusing to comply with orders, and expressing regret for their role in obstructing other citizens’ freedoms.

The study draws on an analysis of hundreds of official documents, censorship directives, and human rights reports, as well as some 30 interviews, examining the evolution of the censorship and internal security apparatus—as well as its limitations—since November 2012. It also offers recommendations to the international community on how to respond.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organisation that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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