‘Strike hard’ campaign: a deeper approach to social unrest?

Police across China have this week started a seven-month crackdown to curb rising crimes and ease escalating social conflicts. Known in Chinese as yanda (‘strike hard’), the Ministry of Public Security announced that the campaign will target extreme violent crime, including gun and gang crime, as well as telecom fraud, human trafficking, robbery, prostitution, gambling and drug-related offences. This is the fourth round of such campaigns since 1983.

Police nationwide have also been told to monitor high-risk areas more closely and, China Daily reports, “nip violence in the bud by being more vigilant to social conflicts and helping resolve problems.”

In May, Premier Wen Jiabao expressed this need for a deeper approach to social unrest in response to a spate of school killings that killed 15 and injured 60 others:

As well as adopting vigorous safety measures, we also have to pay attention to addressing some deep-seated causes behind these problems, including dealing with some social conflicts and resolving disputes.

On Sunday, vice-minister of public security, Zhang Xinfeng, echoed Wen’s sentiment:

China, during a process of social and economic transformation, is facing emerging social conflicts and new problems in social security. Police at all levels must fully realise the complexity of the problem.

It would seem the government is becoming increasingly aware that antiquated methods of repression are no longer sustainable in dealing with social unrest. The Communist Party is now having to manage a multitude of social contentions that illustrate the country’s growing inequalities (the recent labour protests and spate of suicides at Honda and Foxconn are two examples), and a public that has a growing awareness of their legal and human rights and the government’s responsibility to them. Put together, they create a recipe for a social discord that will only be exacerbated by hardline suppression.

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