CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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The watchdog of the watchdogs

HONG KONG (UCAN): The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, together with one of the seven members of the elite Politburo standing committee, announced on June 22 that the next round of inspections of government offices are to target two watchdog departments that are charged with keeping an eye on others.

The highly active United Front Work Department and a secretive security agency created to oversee the persecution of Falun Gong will come under the spotlight, as the watchdog of the watchdogs looks into their past performance.

The United Front Work Department is a party body under the central committee, which liaises with non-party individuals or organisations both inside and outside China that can be useful and supportive to the party rule.

In the last couple of years it has been highly active in Hong Kong, but often with people who are considered not to be so useful to the party at all.

“The United Front holds a lot of resources since it has to reach out to unite people in all areas, from national level to towns or villages. It is very easy to find corruption in such a department,” Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based political commentator, noted.

Religious groups loom large in the sights of the United Front, as one of its responsibilities is to work to unite them around the party line.

One of the ploys used is to give religious leaders political titles, like delegate to the National People’s Congress or member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“The inspection covers all levels of the United Front Work Department. The religious sector will likely be affected, but it won’t be the only one, as there are many other social sectors,” Ching said.

Ching added that he thinks the results of the National Conference of Religious Work, which was held in April, will have a much bigger effect on religious bodies than the probe into the United Front, because it is more directly related.

Observers believe that the April conference will result in tightened controls over the freedom of religious bodies.

Bao Lu, a social commentator in China and a Catholic, expects the outcome of the United Front inspection to be the same as the one done on the State Administration for Religious Affairs, as both are really about tightening control rather than eradicating corruption.

“Besides strengthening centralised management, the inspection will also clean out a remaining clique in the United Front, following a probe by the former department director, Ling Jihua, in 2014,” Bao said.

“The Beidaihe meeting is upcoming and President Xi may be in danger if he does not clean out his opponents before the meeting,” he explained.

The Beidaihe meeting is held annually and provides an opportunity for the party leadership, past and present, to meet for closed-door discussions that are thought to set the tone for major domestic issues.

The other unit under inspection is what is referred to as the 610 Office, which was established on June 10 (1999) to oversee the persecution of the Falun Gong.

Ching believes that the inspection of the 610 Office is another case of Xi striking out against one of his political enemies.

“It is not related to a normal religious group, as we all know the office was established by the former president, Jiang Zemin, to crackdown on the Falun Gong,” Ching explained.

Human rights groups have accused the Chinese Communist Party, especially the 610 Office, of persecuting the Falun Gong.

Amnesty International says, “Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arbitrarily detained” since the government launched a crackdown in 1999.

Accusations that the ruling party has harvested organs from imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners gained traction recently after a United States of America House Resolution condemned the atrocity on June 13, while a report released on June 22 in Washington gave further details of the scale of forced organ harvesting believed to be going on in China.

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