Vendors seek to profit from China’s security budget
BEIJING: 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. “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.
However, 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.”
Foreign trade bodies unhappy with frequent strikes
Six foreign trade bodies have expressed deep concern over frequent strikes in Bangladesh as the unrest is affecting the investment potentials and discouraging the foreign investors. The recent developments in Bangladesh were harming the business and investment potentials and the image of the country, they said in a joint statement released on Saturday, following their meeting in Dhaka.
“The strikes are discouraging the foreign investors and this would ultimately have a severe impact on the economy of the country,” said the statement. It added that the foreign and joint business chambers of Bangladesh are non-political institutions and their aim is to promote bilateral trade relations and support foreign direct investment. “According to the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, strikes (“hartals”) are a fundamental right.
However, the business chambers agreed unanimously that any violence in the name of strike is not acceptable.” It said the business chambers are pleased that Bangladesh is by constitution a secular country. Unfortunately, the political turmoil is harming the business and investment potential and the image of the country, it noted.
The meeting was attended by Albrecht Conze, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bangladesh, Carel Richter, Charge de Affairs of the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Hiroyuki Minami, Minister and DCM of the Embassy of Japan. Sakhawat Abu Khair, President of Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Syed Nurul Islam, President of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arild Klokkerhaug, Founding President of Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), Shahzada Hamid, President of Dutch-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hiroyuki Watabe, Vice President of Japan Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Humayun Rashid, President of France Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry were present at the meeting.
Algeria pilots’ strike grounds national carrier
AFP, Algiers – Air Algerie planes were grounded for several hours on Saturday when the national carrier’s pilots staged a wildcat strike over pay, officials in the North African country said. Air Algerie said in a statement that the strike caused delays for the airline and other carriers that lasted a few hours until normal operations resumed in the afternoon, after negotiations between management and the pilots’ union.
In a separate statement, the union said the strike was aimed at forcing Air Algerie to implement a series of contracts that it had previously signed with the pilots. News agency APS quoted pilots at Algiers airport as saying their demands related to salaries. The morning talks between management and the union were reported to have ended in agreement, APS added.
Custodial killing sparks protest
FAISALABAD: Hundreds of residents of Bawa Chak on Saturday staged a protest demonstration against the death of a labourer allegedly tortured to death in police custody. On Thursday night, Muhammad Waris, a resident of Chak 7-JB, was arrested by Ferozewala police for his involvement in a robbery case. According to the protestors, the police ‘ruthlessly tortured’ Waris while interrogating him resulting in his death. When the body of the deceased was brought to his village on Saturday, scores of residents gathered to protest.
The protestors blocked the Sargodha-Faisalabad road and demanded immediate arrest of those responsible. A Millat Town police contingent headed by SHO Kashif Riaz, tried to break the protest but failed. The protestors demanded that a case be registered against those responsible. The protest ended when Madina Town Police Superintendent Tariq Mehmood assured the protestors that the culprits would be dealt with in accordance with law.
CPO’s spokesman Ameer Nasir Javed told The Express Tribune that the Ferozewala police had registered a case against Sub-Inspector Ameer and three constables involved in Muhammad Waris’s death. He said action would be taken against those found guilty. Javed said, “Waris was a criminal. He was involved in numerous cases and was wanted by Gojra, Sheikhupura and Ferozewala police.” “Ferozewala police arrested Muhammad Waris in a robbery case and took him to a CIA investigation centre where he died,” he added.