10/17/2017, 13.56
CHINA
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On eve of Congress, the Party controls everything: dissidents, climate, economics

by Wang Zhicheng

At least 14 activists, bloggers, democracy artists arrested or "traveling". Security stepped up at Beijing Metro Stations. Steel mills, chemical factories and construction industry closed down to reduce pollution. Economic data manipulated by the government in the name of stability.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Perhaps not everything is ready for the 19th Chinese Communist Party's Congress, which opens tomorrow morning, but everything is certainly under control to avoid all possible surprises: arrest of dissidents and petitioners; closure of factories to decrease smog; an avalanche of positive data on the economy to say that everything is fine and China is advancing in the modernization that will propel it to world leadership.

Arrests

In order for all of this to happen, China has had to considerably step up its control levels. The CHRD (China Human Rights Defenders) organization today released a list of 14 activists who were almost all arrested in the second half of September. They are detained in prison or under house arrest, or forced to "travel" along with policemen, away from capital.

Most of them are accused of "provoking controversy and disorder" through comments and messages on the internet. Since 2013, the Supreme People's Court has established that the internet is like a "public square", a public space that can be disturbed and violated by the written word.

Those arrested include Beijing activist Li Xuehui, along with petitioner, Wang Xiuying, an 80-year-old man arrested with the latter's daughter, Wang Fengxian. They are guilty of producing a video that derides  Xi Jinping. Two days after it was posted, two of them were detained and brought to Shijingshan Prison. Old Wang Xiuying knows nothing.

The others arrested are young bloggers and even singers whose songs support democracy.

Remote preparation for Congress has been steadily gaining control of the net and on private network platforms (Vpn) and the Whatsapp application, some of the many ways the population manages to elude state filters of the web.

Factories shut down

In order for the "sun of the future" to shine on the Congress, for weeks the Party has shut down production in steelworks, chemical factories and the construction industry, or ordered them to reduce their production to allow for blue skies to shine over 2,000 delegates arriving in capital. These closures are not only applied to Beijing and its surroundings, but also in areas such as Guangdong. Closed factories bring problems: lower wages for workers and higher prices for products. Several people already complain that fertilizer prices and construction materials have grown disproportionately. And it cannot be said that this has boosted the climate: the major source of pollution in capital is the automobile traffic.

However, this seems to have increased the security measures: from now all Beijing subway stations have people and luggage controls, resulting in long lines at stations. Additionally, many cafes, bars, meeting places have decided or "have been advised" to close and reopen only after a week, in short for the duration of the Congress.

Steered economy

The economy is also under control. In the first and second quarters, the country recorded growth of 6.9%, driven by public spending and credit. State industries continue to absorb unlimited loans to keep them alive. This state economy can even determine the production of mines and the price for markets. In recent months the government has also curbed companies from investing abroad to try to maintain a stable domestic situation.

And this is just as observers are worried about an imminent crisis, if growth continues with credits, overdrafts, and the flight of capital overseas.

Although for years, China continues to proclaim the desire for economic reforms and a greater market economy, control is sovereign. Commenting on this, independent economist Andy Xie said: " The people at the top worry about the stability. Stability is always number one in China. "

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