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The ‘Chaoyang Masses’ — Beijing’s network of granny informers – China’s latest society and culture news

A
summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for September 21, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.
4 weeks ago
Jiayun Feng

“George Orwell’s 1984 in real life.”

 

“Let’s do a simple calculation here. There are 190,000 police informants in Chaoyang district and each of them gets 300 yuan ($45) per month. So the government pays almost 60 million yuan ($9 million) every month to sustain social stability. That’s a lot of money!”

 

A network of senior citizens dubbed the “Chaoyang Masses” (朝阳群众 chāoyáng qúnzhòng) is arguably one the most mysterious groups associated with the law enforcement in Beijing. They have finally lifted their masks in an article (in Chinese) published on September 21 by the Legal Evening News. The juicy details in the report have never previously been revealed in an official source, and the article sparked an intense discussion on Chinese social media. As the two comments above (in Chinese) show, many internet users are calling the group’s legitimacy and necessity into question.

The Chaoyang Masses are an officially organized neighborhood watch group in Chaoyang District, the largest district in the country’s capital both in terms of land area and population. These public security volunteers, described by the article as the “eyes and ears of the local police,” are mostly retired men and women whose main responsibility is to patrol the neighborhood and report anything suspicious. According to the article, Chaoyang District has more than 190,000 people participating in the program, of whom about 60,000 are active informants. They are scattered across the whole district, with roughly 277 of them per square kilometer. The article says that in some key areas that require extra oversight, “the Chaoyang Masses are everywhere.”

The group gives local police about 20,000 tips a month on suspected crimes ranging from theft, fraud, terrorism, and drug use. Police stations in Chaoyang district provide regular training to the volunteers to help them spot suspicious characters. A police officer told the newspaper, “If they find some girls who always go home around 2 or 3 a.m. with different men, it’s time for us to step in and check her background.” Other key targets for the Chaoyang masses are those who look ill all the time or are abnormally skinny.

Each of these volunteers is paid 300 yuan to 500 yuan ($45-$75) a month. Under the fundamental rule of “Never let volunteers bleed or cry,” super-snitches who encounter accidents in their jobs can claim insurance compensation of up to 1.2 million yuan ($182,000) and a subsidy of 100,000 yuan ($15,000).


By Jiayun Feng
Jiayun is a Chinese native and was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allows her to pursue a journalistic career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.
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