The Chinese government has vowed to crack down on “hostile forces” and their “sabotage” in an apparent response to the growing number of protests that have erupted across the country.
The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which serves as the top law enforcement body of the Chinese Communist Party, issued a warning during a Tuesday meeting that it will not tolerate “illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order.”
The statement, delivered by domestic security chief Chen Wenqing, came days after protests broke out in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and several other cities. While he urged relevant agencies to apply strong measures to “safeguard national security and social stability,” the statement did not explicitly mention the growing demonstrations against the government’s strict zero-COVID policy.
According to Chen, the meeting was held to review the results of October’s 20th party congress, in which Xi granted himself his third five-year term as secretary general.
“The meeting emphasized that political and legal organs must take effective measures to … resolutely safeguard national security and social stability,” read the statement, according to PBS. “We must resolutely crack down on infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces in accordance with the law, resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order and effectively maintain overall social stability.”
Global Times commentator Hu Xijin wrote on Twitter that the statement “conveyed a clear message of warning.”
“The protesters must have understood it,” he noted. “If they repeat those protests, the risks will increase severely.”
While several demonstrations have been staged in the last couple of months, the rallies saw a significant rise in frequency and scope following the death of 10 people who were trapped in a burning apartment block in Xinjiang last week.
Protests have reportedly continued despite a recent announcement of a vaccination program and a partial easing of controls by local officials.
Many protesters have also called for Xi to step down and make way for democracy. Such proclamations are considered subversive in China and are punishable by law.
Protest participants in multiple cities have been photographed holding up blank sheets of white paper to symbolize their lack of free speech in the country.
Based on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s estimates, a total of 51 protests have been held in 24 Chinese cities between Saturday and Wednesday.
Videos of violent protest dispersals by riot police have emerged online, as NextShark previously reported.
There has also been an increased presence of police and paramilitary forces in city streets, with officers conducting random ID checks and mobile phone searches to look for potential evidence of protest participation.
Online, censors scour social media for video footage and reports of the protests, which are then scrubbed off the internet. Meanwhile, state media has not reported stories related to them.
Chinese bot accounts have also been flooding social media with advertisements of explicit adult content when users search for cities like Shanghai and Beijing using Chinese script.