China sets up task force to boost political policing amid threats to stability
- Working group is part of high-level enforcement body established in April to ‘strike hard on activities that could undermine political security’
- It comes as Beijing faces growing criticism over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak
The Communist Party has set up a special task force to boost political policing and secure its unchallenged rule in China, according to state media.
At its first meeting held “recently”, the new task force pledged to “improve its ability” to deal with threats to political security, the report said.
“[We] must keep up our vigilance and stay on high alert at all times, and hit hard on subversive activities, terrorist acts, ethnic secession and religious extremism in accordance with the law,” an undated statement from the meeting said.
It added that the task force’s top priority was to safeguard the integrity of China’s political system. Citing responses to the pandemic from other countries, the statement said a government could only protect its people if the political environment was safe.
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The task force has been set up as Beijing is facing growing criticism – including from the United States, Europe and Australia – over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
At home, Beijing has clamped down on criticism of its response to the pandemic, including rounding up prominent academics who have openly challenged the party’s handling of the crisis in the past few months.
The task force on political security is part of a new coordination group on “Safe China Construction” headed by Guo Shengkun, the party’s most powerful law enforcement figure and a Politburo member.
As head of the party’s Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, Guo oversees all police officers, spies, courts, prosecutors and prisons in China.
The coordination group has set up two other task forces since April – one on social security and the other on security affairs at the municipal level.
It said earlier that its most important task was to handle disputes stemming from the coronavirus, including issues to do with the reopening of business, social welfare and employment.
President Xi Jinping warned in February that the pandemic could compromise social stability, which may in turn undermine efforts to contain the virus.
Gu Su, a political scientist with Nanjing University, believed the new political security task force was set up for more narrowly focused coordination.
“But Beijing may think that it needs more effective and narrowly focused inter-agency coordination on political security given the impact of the pandemic on public opinion and economic performance.”