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Social Stability

Divided Reactions in China as Students Wave Palestinian Flags After College Entrance Exams

During China’s national college entrance examination on June 7th, multiple exam sites witnessed students waving Palestinian flags and expressing support for Palestine after leaving the exam rooms. Some students even actively approached media outlets to voice their stance. Police officers were also seen confiscating flags from some students, though no punishments were reported.

This occurred at exam sites across multiple provinces, including Hunan, Henan, Shandong, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu and Jiangxi. Students raised Palestinian flags after exams, with some holding Chinese flags alongside. In Jiangsu, police confiscated flags from two students. At a youth music festival in Shaanxi, an audience member’s Palestinian flag was confiscated by security staff.

While no punishments of students were reported, the incidents revealed divides in Chinese society’s perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some believed that students should prioritize Chinese domestic issues, while others saw the students’ flag waving as aligning with Beijing’s official pro-Palestinian stance.

The student flag-waving sparked divergent reactions online. A plurality of online commentators expressed views that, since Chinese state-run media have been severely criticizing Western support for Israel, the students’ expression of solidarity for Palestine is merely following the Chinese government media’s “safe” (politically-correct) stance. Some speculated that the students are not acting independently but rather that there are forces orchestrating these students’ actions behind the scenes. Overseas Chinese who are critical of the Chinese government took the opportunity to mock the students, suggesting that they should go protest in Gaza themselves.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), June 10, 2024

The WOIPFG Submits List of 81,340 Individuals Suspected of Persecuting Falun Gong Practitioners to FBI

In April 2024 the “World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG)” submitted a list of “parties suspected of being involved in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners” to the FBI. The list named 81,340 individuals, including 9,011 officials, suspected of involvement in organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. These 81,340 individuals are affiliated with various levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committees, Political and Legal Affairs Committees, the “610 Office” anti-Falun-Gong security agency, military, armed police, public security, procuratorate, courts, justice, prison, hospital, and medical center systems.

The WOIPFG was founded in New York on January 20, 2003, to collect and investigate evidence of the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong. Since December 4, 2004, it has released 16 batches of data listing information about alleged persecutors. Wang Zhiyuan, the organization’s chairman, said that the list has a significant impact within the system of mainland China. He gave two examples of officials on the list requesting that their names be removed: One official from China’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee released all illegally detained Falun Gong practitioners within his jurisdiction, and another one did some good deeds [to try and atone for having persecuted Falun Gong practitioners in the past]. The WOIPFG agreed to have their names removed from the list.

Source: Epoch Times, April 28, 2024

Yiyang County Policing Model: Frequent Village Visits and Small Grids for Control

People’s Daily highlighted the policing model used by the Yiyang County Public Security Bureau in Jiangxi Province, praising it as “a model for the new era” adhering to the communist party’s “Fengqiao Experience” (using the populace to monitor and control the populace).

The policing model used in Yiyang County is called “Big Visits + Small Grids.” Police officers perform frequent visits to the villages assigned to them. They organize large-scale visits called “Meeting Police in Every Village,” where police officers from police stations patrol and visit their assigned villages at least once a day, officers from the bureau hold discussion sessions at their assigned villages at least once a month, and all police officers return to their hometown villages during holidays.

The county police utilize the Internet to implement “grid control.” They have established over 1,100 WeChat groups covering more than 180,000 residents. In addition, they have established a “Police-Community Integration” system, dividing the entire county into 19 large “policing grids” and 51 small “policing grids.” All these “policing grids” are integrated into 123 smaller “Internet grids.” The Internet grid controllers, who are familiar with the “people, land, events, and relationships” in their grids, can respond in a timely manner to public demand and report major incidents immediately. According to People’s Daily, this new grassroots governance model ensures that “people move within the net, events are taken care of within the grid, and both major and minor issues are managed within the grid.”

Source: People’s Daily, May 7, 2024

China’s Growing Community Worker Force: Surveillance, Stability, and Economic Realities

In early April, Li Jing from Jiangsu Province encountered community workers visiting her home for the tenth time since early 2023. Following the routine inquiry about household members, they casually mentioned her son working in the United States. Li Jing revealed that she was planning to visit the US in May to see her son and daughter-in-law. The workers were curious about her plans, politely wished her a safe journey, and reminded her to beware of scams abroad.

Recent directives from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council emphasized strengthening the “community worker workforce.” Official media have covered this topic extensively, highlighting the government’s continuous efforts to upgrade “grassroots information collection and supervision.”

Li Jing described her encounters with the young community workers who asked detailed questions during their visits. She regretted disclosing her son’s recent marriage and job details, sensing heightened interest from the workers afterward.

In another region, Han Yue, working as a community worker in Qingdao, shared a story about his employment situation — he had changed from working a sales job to doing community work due to economic instability. Despite being a contractual job, the community work offered stability compared to fluctuating sales income. Han Yue described his job as varied, involving mundane tasks as well as monitoring overseas relations and familial visits.

Recruitment of community workers has intensified amid China’s economic downturns, with young people seeking stability. These workers handle various tasks, from overseas relations to mundane chores, reflecting the government’s multifaceted approach to “grassroots stability and information collection.”

The recruitment of community workers reflects China’s extensive surveillance apparatus, involving millions of informants. While advanced technology like the Skynet surveillance system exists, the real strength of China’s surveillance apparatus lies in the complex organizational structure and large workforce involved in monitoring the populace. This workforce includes various roles, from part-time informants to full-time government staff, contributing to a formidable surveillance network aiding different government departments.

Source: Voice of America, April 24, 2024

CNA: China’s Personal Income Tax Revenue Fell Significantly in First Two Months of 2024

Primary Taiwanese news agency Central News Agency (CNA) recently ran a story on statistics released by China’s Ministry of Finance. According to the data, Chinese tax revenue during the first two months of 2024 saw a year-over-year decrease of four percent, and personal income tax revenue suffered a significant reduction of 15.9 percent.

“Personal Income Tax Revenue Decline” quickly became a hot topic on Chinese social media, with more than 170 million topic views on Weibo. In online discussion boards, consensus has emerged among a majority of netizens that the driving reasons behind the decline in personal income tax revenue are lowered wages and widespread layoffs.

In China, generally speaking, those with an annual salary of less than RMB 100,000 yuan (US$14,000) do not need to pay personal income tax. Some experts pointed out that China’s post-COVID economic recovery in 2023 was not as strong as expected, and some companies reduced or did not pay year-end bonuses to employees. In addition, some foreign trade companies have seen business volume fall and staff salaries reduced.

Chinese government officials are optimistic regarding the rest of the year, expecting personal income tax revenue for the whole of 2024 to increase by about 6.3 percent compared with 2023.

Source: CNA, March 22, 2024

Growth in Beijing’s “Stability Maintenance” Spending Decelerates

The Second Session of China’s 14th National People’s Congress submitted a report by the Ministry of Finance regarding central and local government budgets in 2023. The report revealed that defense expenditure in 2024 will amount to 1.67 trillion yuan (US$ 230 billion), an increase of 7.2 percent from a year ago, while public security expenditure will be 2276.62 billion yuan, an increase of 1.44 percent. In 2023, public security expenditure (a.k.a. “stability maintenance” expenditure) was 2089.72 billion yuan, representing an increase of 6.4 percent from 2022. The growth rate for stability maintenance spending this year has dropped by nearly five percentage points.

A commentator attributed the decrease in the growth rate of stability maintenance funding to the reduction in central government fiscal revenue. To compensate for reduced fiscal revenue, Beijing has increasingly leaned on local governments and street offices to foot the bill for stability maintenance: “Some 20 percent to 40 percent of local fiscal revenue will be used for stability maintenance.”

To make up for insufficient stability maintenance funding, local governments and local police have been attempting to boost revenue by issuing fines. Some local governments have also implemented temporary policies to increase fees charged to enterprises and individual merchants.

Source: Radio Free Asia, March 6, 2024

Lianhe Zaobao: U.S. Consul General Says Hong Kong Internet Censorship Tightening

Singapore’s primary Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao recently reported that Gregory May, the U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, said Hong Kong’s Internet censorship is “tightening and is becoming more like that in Mainland China.”

Connectivity and data security concerns in Hong Kong have reached a level that prompted some U.S. business executives to use disposable phones and laptops when visiting the city. Gregory May said that Hong Kong “began to go downhill and tried to delete certain content from the Internet or block certain websites.”

He called for Hong Kong to stop restricting freedoms, and he expressed the belief that Hong Kong could effectively improve its reputation by releasing of people facing prison for political speech incidents, e.g. Next Media founder Jimmy Lai. He also said that “Hong Kong still has significant business advantages — as long as the Hong Kong government abides by its commitment in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to maintain a high degree of autonomy and remain unchanged for 50 years, relations between Hong Kong and the United States may improve.”

Source: Lianhe Zaobao, March 1, 2024

CNA: China’s Parenting Costs Near Highest in the World

The cost of raising a child to age 18 in China is 6.3 times greater than China’s per-capita GDP, according to a recent report by primary Taiwanese news agency Central News Agency (CNA). By comparison, the cost of raising a Child in Australia is only 2.08 times Australia’s per-capita GDP. The costs in France, Sweden, Germany, the United States and Japan were (respectively) 2.24 times, 2.91 times, 3.64 times, 4.11 times, and 4.26 times each country’s per-capita GDP.

The CNA article cited the “China Childbirth Cost Report, 2024 Edition,” published by Chinese think tank Yuwa Population Research. Yuwa specializes in population and related public policy issues. The Report said that the cost of parenting is one of the most important factors affecting families’ willingness to have children. According to a 2017 survey by China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, the top three reasons why women of childbearing age abstain from having children are: heavy financial burden (77.4 percent), age (45.6 percent), and lack of a caretaker for the child (33.2 percent).

China’s population shrunk in 2023 for the second consecutive year after peaking in 2021. The number of Chinese newborns in 2023 has dropped to about half of the level seen in 2016.

Source: CNA, February 21, 2024