Judicial authorities across China are setting up ‘people’s legal struggle militias’ to aid law enforcement, recruiting lawyers aged 18 to 45 who are ‘in good physical condition’, according to official notices posted online. .
A notice issued by justice bureaus in Shanghai, Guangdong, Hubei and other places said militias would be formed to support “our online forces”.
“Plans are underway to set up a legal fighting militia and report to the municipal government’s armed forces department before the end of May,” the notice said.
“We recruit… lawyers or paralegals from law firms in the city. Recruitment criteria: Aged 18 to 45, in good physical condition. [Ruling] Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, preferably veterans,” he said.
Chinese criminal lawyer Mo Shaoping said he had never heard of “legal wrestling” in his career.
“It sounds like a made-up expression; I’ve never heard it before,” Mo told RFA. “I haven’t seen any definition of ‘legal fight’ in any legal dictionary.”
News commentator Zha Jianguo said that the use of the word “struggle”, which has its roots in the political “struggle sessions” of the post-1949 era and the puppet courts of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976 ), suggested moving away from the rule of law and the legal process.
“It means a kind of intense conflict and tension between people,” Zha said. “It’s a neologism, which means that they want to fight, but to use the law as a weapon, but without any precise legal basis.”
“It’s about hiding artificial ‘struggles’…under a legal veneer.”
Political scientist Guo Wenhao said the creation of militias is a dangerous indicator of what is to come, now that the power to “enforce the law” has been delegated beyond government departments and law enforcement agencies. law.
China has empowered local officials at the township, village and ward levels to enforce the law under an amended law on administrative penalties that came into effect in July 2021as well as the operation of a very extensive “network management” social control system in rural and urban areas.
“[Officials at] township, village and district [level] will be provided with administrative law enforcement powers … while existing law enforcement powers and resources will be integrated,” according to a high-level opinion paper from April, but not published by the state news agency Xinhua before 11 July.
The government will be based on a “grid” management system, a system of social control that dates back to imperial times and that will allow authorities to control citizens’ lives even more tightly, according to the opinion paper jointly released by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. (CPC) of the country’s central committee and State Council.
According to guidelines sent out in 2018, the grid system divides neighborhoods into a grid pattern with 15 to 20 households per square, with each grid having a dedicated monitor who reports residents’ affairs to local committees.
Neighborhood committees in China have long been responsible for monitoring the activities of ordinary people in urban areas, but the network management system is accelerating the ability of officials even in rural areas to monitor what they do, say and think. local populations.
“Now that law enforcement power has been delegated to townships and sub-districts, and institutions without any legal knowledge or law enforcement powers have been given the power to enforce the law, there is there will be widespread abuse of this law enforcement power,” Guo said.
“And such phenomena tend to intensify.”
Cultural Revolution Application Style
He said the militias suggest that China is indeed moving towards a style of Cultural Revolution enforcement where the government no longer has a monopoly on political violence.
“I feel like a completely absurd system has emerged, outside of the traditional personnel structures,” Guo said.
“The government allows them to do bad things, then they can deny [doing them].”
Gansu scholar Zhang Ping said the militias will be under the command of local government militias, similar to the grassroots militias of the Cultural Revolution.
“Granting the militia a lot of law enforcement power is equivalent to having an armed reserve outside the army and police, with greater freedom than the police or the armed police,” Zhang told RFA. .
“It’s to prevent a so-called popular uprising…it’s a matter of social control.”
A version of the directive issued by authorities in the city of Pingliang, Gansu, on April 28 said the plan was aimed at “strengthening the maintenance of wartime stability”, a nationwide system of surveillance and coercion that aims to stop protests and petitions before they happen.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.