Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Exposing Vulnerability

Pictures from Weibo of the aftermath of the knife attack in Guangzhou
The knife attack at Guangzhou Railway Station yesterday that wounded at least six people is the third assault in two months in China.

It calls into question the amount of money spent on domestic security, which is believed to be much more than 209 billion yuan, far exceeding the military budget.

If so much money is being spent on security, why are these attacks happening?

For example in Guandong, police have been patrolling with guns since 1994, and since May 1 there have been more than 4,000 gun-toting police officers and 10,000 auxilary police officers patrolling Guangzhou streets.

There are also SWAT teams and plainclothes police patrolling popular destinations, and 397,000 security cameras installed in the busy southern Chinese city since May1.

One of the six injured being carried away
It is a good illustration of how China has the hardware but not the software.

Even with all the equipment and manpower, the country isn't secure because it has poor intelligence gathering and local government capabilities to deal with these kinds of crises.

The just released 2013 China National Security Studies annual report features articles by scholars from various institutions who warn of "grave" challenges.

"Terror attacks in China have become more active than in previous years in both the number and seriousness of the attacks. The anti-terrorism condition facing China is grave," the report said.

So far this year there was an apparent suicide bomb and knife attack in Urumqi that left two assailants and a bystander dead a week ago, and a knife attack in Kunming train station in March that killed 29 and injured dozens. And now the incident in Guangzhou.

The report claims the main issue is Uyghur separatists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement are to blame, expanding its attack targets from Xinjiang to other areas.

But are all these violent incidents really attributed to Uyghurs?

The Chinese government is not being transparent about this and all state media must carry Xinhua stories on any sensitive incidents so we may not be entirely sure of their conclusions.

But in any case, the lack of intelligence proves that having hardware is not enough to stop impending attacks. You need to know what is going on on the ground.

The more the government represses people like the Uyghurs, the more isolated they become, and the more secretive they are. As not many Chinese know the Uyghur language and culture, how can they even begin to understand this ethnic minority and their motives, let alone get some inkling of attacks being planned?

The string of attacks clearly shows heavy-handed repression does not bring security, but vulnerability.

Is this what China really wants to expose?

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