China sets up local law enforcement militias to boost ‘stability maintenance’ — Radio Free Asia

Judicial authorities across China are setting up “people’s legal fighting militias” to help law enforcement, and are recruiting lawyers 18-45 “in good physical condition,” according to official announcements posted online.

A statement issued by justice offices in Shanghai, Guangdong, Hubei and elsewhere said militias would be formed in support of “our online forces.”

“Plans are underway to set up a legal combat militia and report to the Armed Forces Department by the end of May,” the statement said.

“We recruit … lawyers or legal assistants from the city’s law firms. Recruitment criteria: Aged 18-45 years, in good physical shape. [Ruling] “Chinese Communist Party (CCP) veterans preferred,” it said.

Chinese criminal lawyer Mo Shaoping said he had never heard of any “legal battle” in his career.

“It seems like an invented expression; I’ve never heard it before,” Mo told RFA. “I have not seen any definition of ‘legal battle’ in any legal dictionary.”

Current Affairs commentator Zha Jianguo said the use of the word “fight”, which has its roots in the political “fight sessions” of the post-1949 era and the kangaroo courts during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), suggested a step away from the rule of law. and judicial channels.

“It means a kind of intense conflict and tension between people,” Zha said. “It’s a neologism, which means they will fight but to use the law as a weapon, but without any specific legal basis.”

“It’s about hiding artificial ‘fights’ … in a legal veneer.”

An angry Chinese man (striped T-shirt) is crocheted in Beijing by a plainclothes militant (facing the camera) while trying to roll out and paste his handwritten poster or dazibao on
An angry Chinese man (striped T-shirt) is crocheted in Beijing by a plainclothes militiaman (facing camera) while trying to roll out and paste his handwritten poster or dazibao on the “dazibao wall” in front of the Beijing Municipal Revolutionary Committee, 23 July 1974. Credit: AFP

Dangerous indicator

Political scientist Guo Wenhao said the creation of militias is a dangerous indicator of what is to come, now that the power to “enforce the law” has been delegated beyond government departments and law enforcement agencies.

China authorized township, village, and neighborhood officials to enforce the law under an amended administrative penalty law that went into effect in July 2021as well as operating a wide-ranging “network management system” for social control in both rural and urban areas.

“[Officials at] town, village and neighborhood [level] should be given administrative law enforcement powers … while existing law enforcement powers and resources should be integrated, “according to a high-ranking opinion document from April, but not published by the Xinhua State News Agency before July 11th.

The government will be based on a “lattice” system of leadership, a system of social control dating back to imperial times, which will give the authorities even closer control over the lives of citizens, the statement issued jointly by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reads. ) Central Committee and the State Council said.

According to directives issued in 2018, the grid system divides neighborhoods into a grid pattern with 15-20 households per. square, where each network receives a dedicated monitor that reports back on residents’ relationships with local committees.

Neighborhood committees in China have long been tasked with monitoring the activities of ordinary people in urban areas, but the network management system is boosting the capacity of officials, even in rural areas, to monitor what local people are doing, saying and thinking.

“Now that law enforcement powers have been delegated to townships and sub-districts, and institutions without legal knowledge or law enforcement powers have been given the power to enforce the law, there will be widespread abuse of that law enforcement power,” Guo said.

“And such phenomena tend to intensify.”

Enforcement style for the Cultural Revolution

He said the militias suggest that China is actually heading towards an enforcement style of the Cultural Revolution, where the government no longer has a monopoly on political violence.

“I get the impression that a completely absurd system has emerged outside of traditional staff structures,” Guo said.

“The government allows them to do bad things, then they can deny [doing them]. “

Gansu researcher Zhang Ping said the militias would be under the command of local government militias in a manner similar to the grassroots militias of the Cultural Revolution.

“Giving the militia a lot of law enforcement power means having an armed reserve outside the military and police force, with greater freedom than the police or armed police,” Zhang told RFA.

“This is to prevent a so-called popular uprising … it’s about social control.”

A version of the directive issued by the authorities of Gansus by Pingliang on April 28 said the plan aimed to “strengthen stability maintenance on a wartime basis” a nationwide system of surveillance and coercion aimed at preventing protests and petitions before they occur.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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