China lays groundwork to crackdown further on political threats

A special working group on political security was added to a law enforcement task force. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - The Chinese government took steps to boost political policing as a slew of international spats risk sowing domestic unrest, potentially undermining support for the Communist Party.

A special working group on political security was added to a law enforcement task force first established in April to defuse any social unrest stemming from the government's response to the virus, according to a report from the official Legal Daily.

Mr Lei Dongsheng, vice secretary-general of the Communist Party Central Committee's Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, is leading the group and "recently" convened its first meeting in Beijing, the article said.


At the gathering, it was emphasised that "protecting the safety of the political system" and "safeguarding the regime's security" should be the first priority.

Officials also vowed to take strict precautions against and crackdown on activities including infiltration, subversion, terrorism, ethnic secession and extreme religious activities.

President Xi Jinping warned early in the Covid-19 crisis that the epidemic posed a threat to "social stability" and since then his country has faced criticism from nations including the US and Australia over its handling of the initial outbreak.

Mr Xi's government has repeatedly expressed suspicions that foreign nations are spreading disinformation and attempting to foment unrest within China.

Led by Mr Guo Shengkun, one of the 25 most powerful CCP members, the task force initially set up two working groups: one to maintain social order and the other to contain risks at the city level.

The rising international tensions in recent months appear to have added another focus - stemming the influence of international actors on the country's populace.

The CCP's Politics and Law Commission said on its official WeChat account on Monday (July 6) that the new working group's meeting came as safeguarding political security becomes a top priority "amid a changing global situation."

It cited examples including US politicians "deflecting blame" to China over its failure to contain the pandemic, "intervention" by the US, Taiwan, and Australia over national security legislation in Hong Kong and the deadly border conflict with India.

The list of international disputes continues to grow as China asserts its power on the world stage and defends its record on the virus.

In recent months, it has also stepped up fighter jet exercises near Taiwan, clashed over territory in the South China Sea, charged two Canadians it detained under murky circumstances, sparred with Australia over an investigation into the virus's origins and quarrelled with the European Union over a range of issues.

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