McClatchy, By Tom Lasseter
BEIJING — As the United States ends its political season, China’s is beginning, and Beijing would like to keep things in order. That means red banner slogans strung along roadsides, flurries of propaganda-as-news and, of course, a police crackdown.
In the coming week, officials here will trumpet the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party as an event confirming that, as one state news item recently put it, “democracy with Chinese characteristics is improving.”
Much about the meeting will be a reminder, however, that China remains an authoritarian state that often requires a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to public politics.
The congress of 2,270 delegates is set to exercise “intraparty democracy” in electing a new central committee for the party. After the congress, which starts Thursday and expected to last a week, the new central committee will convene a meeting at which the politburo and its standing committee are chosen. The seven or nine standing committee members – the new total isn’t yet known – form the nucleus of ruling power in China..
A small level of competition in voting is expected for full members of the central committee, now just above 200 seats, and, though the prospect seems slim, Reuters cited unnamed sources Tuesday as saying that the same could be true for the 25-person politburo as well. But the all-powerful standing committee almost definitely has been determined through factional jockeying behind closed doors.
A story Monday by the Xinhua news wire reported that a senior security official had recently been “inspecting a security ‘moat’ project created in areas encircling Beijing for the congress’ smooth holding.” There was apparently no water involved, just a lot of police.
The story quoted Zhou Yongkang, a standing committee member who oversees domestic security, as urging authorities in Beijing and surrounding regions to form a “solid defense . . . thus creating a safe, orderly, auspicious and peaceful environment for the successful holding of the 18th National Congress.”
Amnesty International released a statement last week that gave an idea of what that might mean: More than 100 activists have been rounded up so far.
“The police have placed dozens of activists under house arrest, forcibly removed individuals from Beijing and have closed down the offices of community groups in attempts to suppress peaceful dissent,” the group said. “Scores of activists are believed to be held in ‘black jails’ across the country. . . . Hotels, hostels, basements of buildings and farm centers have all been reportedly used as black jails.”
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