Chinese Regime Detains Dissidents Ahead of Secret Beidaihe Conclave

Chinese Regime Detains Dissidents Ahead of Secret Beidaihe Conclave
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (bottom) arrives at the closing session of the Chinese regime’s rubber-stamp legislature conference while other Communist Party officials applaud, in Beijing, on May 28, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Nicole Hao

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and other senior officials haven’t appeared in public for several days, while police in the northern resort town of Beidaihe recently began tightening security, leading observers to predict that the Chinese Communist Party’s annual secret conclave will soon take place.

Chinese petitioners who appeal for authorities to hear their grievances were also recently detained in the area. Ahead of important political meetings, police typically suppress dissent.

It’s customary for top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to go on vacation in Beidaihe, located in northern Hebei Province, for about two weeks, usually beginning in late July or early August.

Party factions conduct informal negotiations, discuss major national policies, and finalize decisions during the conclave, but details are kept secret.

In phone interviews, petitioners told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that police in Beidaihe grabbed them from local train stations or on the streets and sent them back home—but didn’t provide a reason or present an arrest warrant.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were active in late July but haven’t participated in public activities in the past few days. The other five members of the Party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, also haven’t made public appearances.

But so far this month, state-run media reported on many activities of provincial government leaders, such as the Party boss of Hebei Province.

According to state-run Hebei Daily, Wang Dongfeng visited Beidaihe on June 12 and 13 to check local security arrangements.

Since then, the police presence has been increased, according to local residents.

Ma Bo is a petitioner in Beidaihe. She said that police arranged checkpoints at railway stations in Beidaihe and Qinhuangdao, the city where the resort town is located. Police also checked people’s identities at street crossings in Beidaihe in an attempt to locate all petitioners and dissidents.

Ma and her son went to the beach with two friends who were police officers from her hometown of Jiamusi.

While they were riding in a private car on July 27, the police stopped the vehicle and didn’t allow them to pass the checkpoint because Ma was identified as a petitioner when the police scanned her face using his surveillance handset.

“[The local police] finally released us after the police from Jiamusi had been arguing with them for a while,” Ma said.

At Lianfeng Mountain Park, which is on the way to the beach, Ma was stopped by police again. The officer scanned her ID number and she was identified as a “target.” Ma was then forced to leave the park and go back home.

Ma added that authorities recently installed surveillance cameras in all taxis. According to her, the cameras’ facial recognition can identify dissidents and alert police to their presence.

Xiao Jin is a petitioner from Yunnan Province, in the country’s southwestern edge. She arrived at Beidaihe on July 25 in the hopes of appealing to top officials while they were in town, but soon was detained inside the train station and sent back to Yunnan.

“The police ... grabbed one of my phones, because they are scared I would expose their wrong behavior,” Xiao said.

Beidaihe is a famous coastal resort town facing the Bohai Sea.

The Politburo Standing Committee members as well as retired Party statesmen convene to discuss the regime’s challenges, allocate power among the different factions, and decide who to promote or dismiss.

No reporters are allowed to attend the meeting nor interview officials. State-run media also don’t publish any announcements or reports.

The Chinese regime is facing dilemmas domestic and abroad, including the CCP virus epidemic and its impact on the economy; flooding, droughts, and other disasters happening across the country that have impacted millions; and international backlash against Beijing’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, its tightening control over Hong Kong, and security risks associated with Chinese firms.
Meanwhile, Party infighting has not let up. In the first half of 2020, at least nine officials with provincial governor-level or higher rankings were dismissed and detained, according to state-run Economic Daily.
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
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