Beijing Tightens Resident Background Checks, Targeting Four Groups and Foreigners

June 13, 2019 Updated: June 13, 2019

Chinese authorities have taken extra security measures following the 30th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre, when the regime violently suppressed pro-democracy protests in 1989.

In some of Beijing’s most popular expatriate neighborhoods, an official notice has been posted on bulletin boards, announcing that four categories of residents must visit their neighborhood committee to provide more detailed personal information.

The notice claims to be a unified background survey targeting “new social classes,” and part of the United Front campaign “under the new situation.” The Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Department is dedicated to persuading citizens to support Party policies.

The four categories refer to: managers and technical staff in private and foreign-funded enterprises; employees working for intermediary and social organizations; freelancers; and new media employees.

More specifically, the category of intermediary and social organizations include lawyers, accountants, appraisers, and patent agents; the category of freelancers include freelance journalists, artists, photographers, singers, freelance movie producers and directors, media and marketing planners, corporate trainers, market research consultants, designers, translators, self-employed mechanics, and IT service providers.

Foreign Journalists Among Surveillance Targets

The four groups of residents must visit their neighborhood committee by June 14 and provide at least two phone numbers.

Neighborhood committees will verify if residents belong to one of the four categories by making phone calls to neighbors, and if so, committee staff would make follow-up phone calls to urge completion of the background check procedures as soon as possible, according to a foreigner living in one of the so-called “expat-bubble” neighborhoods in Beijing, who spoke with The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity.

He learned from one of his neighbors that this kind of background check occurred five years ago.

He added that all neighborhoods in Beijing that have foreign residents are equipped with surveillance monitors.

“Many journalists who work for foreign media outlets are the main surveillance targets of the Chinese police. They move frequently to evade the tight surveillance,” he said.

Tiananmen Square Still Heavily Guarded

Another Beijing resident who is a Chinese national also spoke with The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity. He said that Beijing authorities are still in an overly jittery state following the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Tiananmen Square is still heavily guarded by police, and police vans can be seen everywhere. Foreign journalists aren’t allowed to enter the square during the flag-raising ceremony in the early mornings. During normal hours, any visitor must present a resident ID card to enter Tiananmen Square. Visitors holding only a passport can’t get in, even if they are Chinese.

The resident believes that policy is meant to prevent foreign journalists from accessing the square. He also explained that the current Chinese resident identity card can help track the location of the person carrying it.

In some areas, pedestrians are asked to present ID cards on the street. He noticed this unusual check-up before the anniversary and it continues today.

Armed police posts were recently erected at major long-distance bus stations in Beijing, where petitioners often come in and out and meet with their fellow petitioners—people who have been wronged by local authorities, and have traveled to Beijing to seek redress.

The Tiananmen West Station, the subway station that is closest to Zhongnanhai— the Communist Party leadership compound—is currently closed; Beijing authorities have not given a reason.