If you follow the doings of the Chinese security services in the interest of “stability maintenance”, you will discover a disturbing regularity: people get beaten up. Physical beatings are a regular method of retribution. At home, on the streets, in confinement, in prison, women and men alike, are beaten up. Sometimes severely, causing serious injury, ultimately death. The use of beatings is not the work of a few “bad apples” but systemic.
Security officials are often civilians, often with unknown authority. They may be police officials in civilian dress or hired thugs without formal police authority. These are the prolific beaters who rough up “troublemakers” with different degrees of severity.
The Chinese state is the most sophisticated dictatorship ever, so smooth in its operation that it often does not even look dictatorial to many Chinese. It is so smooth that it is possible for many outside observers to pretend that the regime is only mildly authoritarian with some unfortunate blemishes. But it is still a dictatorship, and like all dictatorships an ugly form of rule. Beneath the surface of sophisticated control, this like other dictatorships depends on brute violence and on instilling fear into the souls of its people. If you oppose the dictatorship, you are in danger not only of being thrown into jail but also of suffering physical damage. If you think of opposing the dictatorship, you need to recon with the risk that you will be beaten up.