China Spends $125 Billion Per Year On Riot Gear And ‘Stability Maintenance’

Agence  France Presse   |  May  19, 2013

china police

Wang Zhao/AFP

Two Chinese paramilitary police test a telescopic sight  fitted on a gun model at the China International Exhibition and Symposium on  Police Equipment and Anti-Terrorism Technology and Equipment in Beijing on May  15, 2013.

Mannequins in riot gear, armoured cars and drones line a  police equipment and “anti-terrorism technology” trade fair in Beijing as  vendors seek to profit from China’s huge internal security budget.

The country is estimated to have more than 180,000 protests each year and the  ruling Communist Party spends vast sums on ensuring order — more even than on  its military, the largest in the world.

Shields, batons, gun-sights on wooden rifles and more were on display at the  event last week, where the capital’s own police force promoted a lie-detection  system.

Two men in black uniforms marked “SWAT” inspected a pair of night-vision  goggles, while a group of policemen who said they were from Jiangxi province in  the south looked on as a bomb-disposal robot was put through its paces.

“The country is giving huge support to police spending,” said Lu Hui, a  salesman for “Robostep”, a two-wheeled self-balancing scooter akin to a Segway,  which he said was used by police patrolling Beijing’s Tiananmen square.

Another stall sold wireless microphones it claimed are used to pick up  disturbances in the square, under tight security since 1989, when it was the  scene of huge pro-democracy demonstrations later crushed by authorities, killing  hundreds.

“Our government makes an annual budget for public security, and we have a  much bigger budget than before,” said salesman Ryan Fan, standing in front of a  display of black security vests, bulletproof helmets and clear plastic  shields.

“These products are mainly for anti-riot policemen,” he added.

China’s domestic security budget across all levels of government is 769  billion yuan ($125 billion) this year, more than the country officially plans to  spend on its armed forces, and an increase of more than 200 billion yuan since  2010.

Billions of the internal security budget, which also covers mundane items  such as food safety and running courts, is earmarked for “stability  maintenance”, a term used to justify arresting protesters and surveillance of  dissidents.

china police


“We have a lot more to spend, particularly on anti-terrorism,” said one of  the Jiangxi police delegation, declining to be named because of the nature of  his work.

Dozens of vendors offered the latest in surveillance technology, from  scanners which pick up mobile phone signals to secret bugging devices and drone  aircraft.

One remote-controlled helicopter had a starting price of 100,000 yuan.  “Police departments across China are already using it,” said a salesman for the  Beijing-based company Seven Dimension Information.

It is not only domestic firms who supply the market.

Inspirational music flowed from a display of Mercedes police vehicles, while  Ford and Hyundai cars emblazoned with the word “Police” sat on raised white podiums.

One stall displayed an apparently Australian-made drone with a built-in video  camera, and pictures of residential districts taken by the lightweight craft  lined the walls.

Western companies have in the past been the focus of criticism for helping  Chinese authorities set up vast surveillance systems.

“I think surveillance technology is something that is growing in our  concerns,” said Kaye Stearman, of Britain-based advocacy group Campaign Against  the Arms Trade.

A ban on EU arms exports to China — introduced as a reaction to the  Tiananmen crackdown — does not outlaw exports of many technologies which could  be used for internal repression, she added.

Analysts say that the rise in security spending has matched a growth in  protests around China. The country had an estimated 180,000 demonstrations — or  “mass incidents” — in 2010 and numbers have risen since, according to  academics.

Chinese authorities have to increase police manpower to “take care of  fast-growing mass protests on the streets and ‘potential’ threats on the  Internet”, said Chih-Jou Jay Chen, a researcher at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica.

Government departments responsible for maintaining stability have “asked,  seized, and fought for power and resources” in recent years, he told AFP.

China’s new head of public security Meng Jianzhu was not given a seat on the  ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, its highest-ranking body,  during the country’s recent leadership transition, prompting speculation that  the security apparatus may be reined in.

But vendors at the fair did not expect any spending cuts.

“The money will continue to increase, the stability maintenance model will  continue,” said Chen Dahai, a former detective who left the force to sell  fingerprint-detecting devices.

“The police have a lot more money, they can barely spend it  all.”

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