Zhou Yongkang

Hu puts police on the front line of social stability

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao praised 291 'paragons' from the People's Armed Police and the public security police, and demanded they create a stable environment for this autumn's 17th Communist Party Congress and next year's Beijing Olympics.

The 291 officers received awards in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, with Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang chairing the ceremony, according to the Public Security Ministry's website.

Besides Mr Hu, other Politburo Standing Committee members, including Premier Wen Jiabao , Vice-President Zeng Qinghong and security chief Luo Gan , attended the ceremony.

'Maintaining a stable and harmonious society is the honourable task of all the public security organs,' said Mr Hu, in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission. '[You] should endeavour to prepare the way for the opening of the coming 17th party congress.'

China's 1.8 million public security police have been busy dealing with a rising crime rate in cities and the burden of day-to-day police work, leaving the job of maintaining stability in the face of mass incidents such as protests to the armed police.

The People's Armed Police Force was formed in April 1983, and was made up of People's Liberation Army forces on domestic defence duty.

The status and importance of the armed police has risen steadily since the PLA crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Before that it had been mainly used to guard government establishments and national borders but has since become the main force in charge of domestic security and social stability, with the Central Military Commission saying it should be the first force mobilised in the event of any domestic upheaval.

On December 6, 2005, armed police shot dead at least three villagers who had been involved in a land dispute protests in Shanwei , Guangdong. On Tuesday, officials in Ningbo , Zhejiang , sent 100 public security and armed police to drive away 52 schoolgirls protesting outside the municipal government office about alleged fraud at their school.

Hu Xingdou , a political analyst from the Beijing Institute of Technology, said Mr Hu was reliant on the armed police to maintain stability because China was a state ruled by men rather than the law.

'Strengthening police forces is the most efficient way to suppress the instability,' he said. 'But I think only when China sets up a rule-of-law system will it be able to maintain a permanent stability.'

Law and order

The number of officers in the People's Armed Police Force 1.5m