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Chinese official calls for heightened security


By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, AP
April 01, 2009

BEIJING (AP) China's Communist Party head of public order has demanded beefed up security amid spreading economic woes and upcoming sensitive political anniversaries.

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, said the global financial meltdown posed a new set of problems for the party.

"Faced with the present international and domestic situation, particularly the deep change in the economic environment, it is imperative to soberly recognize the new scenario and new challenges facing public order," Zhou was quoted as saying by state media Wednesday.

He did not specifically say what measures would be put in place to control crime and unrest.

Zhou's remarks appeared on the front page of the communist flagship People's Daily and other official newspapers. China's communist leaders regularly insist that only strict one-party rule can guarantee economic growth and stability.

Over recent months, top officials have issued repeated warnings over the potential for unrest resulting from a tightening labor market and mass layoffs in the crucial export sector. More than 20 million migrant workers have already returned to the impoverished countryside after losing factory jobs in industrialized coastal cities.

Zhou also called on security forces to ensure a smooth run-up to October celebrations of the communist state's 60th national day.

Unmentioned was the 20th anniversary of the regime's crushing of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests on June 4, which remains a major lightning rod for political dissent. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual sect, the 30th anniversary of the post-Cultural Revolution dissident movement know as "Democracy Wall," and the first anniversary of a devastating earthquake that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

State security agencies have aggressively sought to head off protests and commemorations of the Tiananmen crackdown, in which hundreds, possibly thousands were killed and an unknown number jailed. They have detained and harassed veteran activists, along with signatories to an open call for sweeping reforms titled "Charter '08" that has circulated widely in dissident circles since December.

In the most recent incident writer Jiang Qisheng said agents searched his Beijing home Tuesday, confiscating computers, books, notes and bank account information.

Jiang, vice chairman of the writer's group Independent Chinese PEN, said he was taken to a local police station and released after six hours of questioning, mainly about his plans for June 4 commemorations.

Jiang, who was imprisoned for two years following the crackdown, said by phone from his home in the capital's university district that he told police he was going to publish articles to commemorate June 4.

"They asked me not to do it, but I said there was no way, that I will continue to do what I am doing," Jiang said. "I'm not afraid. I must do it. I'm the victim of June 4, so I must speak up."

Police also detained an activist in southwest Sichuan province who tried to investigate the collapse of school buildings in last May's 7.9-magnitude earthquake and the number of schoolchildren killed, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The student deaths have become a sensitive political issue for the government, and Tan Zuoren hoped to complete his investigation by the anniversary, Hong Kong-based activist network Chinese Human Rights Defenders said. He was taken by police Tuesday, the group said.

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