December 28, 2009 / 3:00 AM / 9 years ago

China targets political foes after dissident trial

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese police official has vowed “pre-emptive attacks” against threats to Communist Party control, in a speech published days after the nation’s most prominent dissident was jailed for criticizing the Party.

Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds the court's official verdict outside the office of her husband's lawyer in Beijing December 25, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray

Vice Minister for Public Security Yang Huanning said the government faced undiminished risks to control, despite fast economic growth, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In a speech on December 18 to security officials, published only on Monday, Yang singled out perceived threats from political foes of the ruling Communist Party, including separatist sentiment in the border regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

“The schemes of Western anti-China forces seeking to Westernize and split us, friction and disputes between countries, and hostile forces stirring up chaos and sabotage ... remain major factors affecting our national security and social stability,” Yang said in his address.

“Strike hard against hostile forces at home and abroad. “Strive to anticipate and prevent, staging pre-emptive attacks.”

“Hostile forces” is a sweeping Chinese term for perceived political threats to Communist Party rule.

Yang’s speech on police work was published after a court in Beijing on Friday sentenced Liu Xiaobo, the country’s most prominent critic of Party rule, to 11 years in jail on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Liu’s sentence and Yang’s warning suggest China’s leaders will continue tough measures to stifle political dissent, control the Internet, and quell ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang.

HONG KONG PROTEST

On Monday, when Liu turned 54, dozens of pro-democracy and human rights supporters marched on Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, denouncing his sentence as “unforgivable,” holding aloft pictures of him and a large pink birthday card filled with signatures.

On Sunday, activists dressed as convicts had signs supporting Liu and his democracy campaign ripped from their grasp by Chinese police and immigration officers at the Lowu checkpoint between Hong Kong to China.

Four activists and two journalists were briefly detained.

Liu was found guilty for helping organize the “Charter 08” petition urging democratic reforms and for publishing online essays critical of the Party.

“The sentencing of Liu Xiaobo shows the authorities are afraid. They wanted to issue a warning,” said Yu Meisun, a former official jailed for three years on charges of “revealing state secrets” who now campaigns for political liberalization.

“They’re afraid of the consequences of political relaxation, but also afraid of the social discontent that the current system can’t resolve... The result is economic development but political stagnation.”

Liu has been the only organizer of the “Charter 08” campaign, launched late last year, who has been jailed. Others have been placed under police surveillance or warned away from activism.

Additional reporting by James Pomfret in Hong Kong and Lucy Hornby in Beijing; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Bill Tarrant

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