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#15.1 - Update - Protests
Jiang Zemin, former CCP leader, died Wednesday. Oddly enough this is another echo of the past, when the death of Hu Yaobang, a party chief that similarly represented a path away from authoritarian Marxism partly inspired the 1989 protests. Present protest activity has largely ended, but gatherings to commemorate Jiang and this coming weekend when citizens aren’t working are opportunities to renew the demonstrations.
As of Tuesday night (11/29), lingering unrest in the southern city of Guangzhou continued. However by Wednesday morning (11/30) it seems most protest activity in most locations has ceased under a heavy blanket presence of both the People’s Police (人民警察 / the normal policing function which reports to the Ministry of Public Security) and the People’s Armed Police (武警部队 / commonly abbreviated “PAP” / a paramilitary force that reports to the Central Military Commision).
A hard line was crossed when university students (particularly at Tsinghua University) began protests demanding rights and freedoms that the CCP will never relinquish. Citizens from across the social spectrum began adopting a playbook that was too similar to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the CCP realized it had to act quicker this time. Local authorities are closing both public squares where protests occurred as well as universities, with final exams for the end of the year to be conducted remotely.
Important questions answered:
-Protests were stopped relatively early and it appears the armed police/PAP deployed to all major areas of unrest. In some areas, police established checkpoints every 40 meters in a Xinjiang style lockdown. The PAP “accomplished their mission.” It is very possible that more resources will be directed to the PAP in the outyears to further cement their effectiveness and develop capabilities for identifying and reacting to unrest earlier than occurred in this instance. There was no mention of PLA readiness or involvement, which is a win as far as the CCP’s internal stability organs are concerned.
-While the CCP has made a few minor modifications to the draconian COVID policy, it remains largely in place. So far, Chairman Xi is emerging out of these protests stronger, with a domestic repression apparatus that is effective and responsive to his commands.
-This will be the first major opportunity for the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to push for centralization of the currently disparate and haphazard social credit score system. These protests are a broad national issue and the current local government sponsored or private sector social credit platforms are unable to centrally identify and punish citizens. The MPS will likely be going through police camera surveillance of protest activity combined with cellular phone location records to pinpoint protestors. The CCP officials running the MPS then have the authority to start punishing citizens without notification by employing the many different public and private systems available. Protestors could be confined to their hometowns, have their ability to purchase train and airplane tickets reduced or denied, have passport applications denied, suffer impacts to their financial credit score, be denied government-related employment, have university admissions denied or revoked, or any number of other consequences. One can bet that the MPS officers doling out the punishments will run into the currently fragmented system and want something more centralized and user-friendly.
-Undoubtedly, the CCP will use its usual playbook of blaming local CCP officials and other scapegoats for problems with the COVID and anti-protest policies so that more senior central CCP officials can “save the people.” By selling out the younger communists running local operations, the Party can assuage citizen’s anger and be cast as the savior of the masses. It remains to be seen which party members and government officials will be sacked.