Report: Chinese Paramilitary Trained Cuban ‘Black Beret’ Repressive Force

Chinese paramilitary officers stand at attention while on a routine drill in Beijing's foreign embassy district, 18 December 2007. The Chinese Paramilitary Forces are composed of thee main divisions, the People's Armed Police (PAP), the militia and the reserve force, all acting as auxiliaries to the People's Liberation Army (PLA). …
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The independent outlet ADN Cuba published photos late Thursday reportedly showing members of Cuba’s “black beret” repressive forces training alongside the Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP), a paramilitary force deployed to repress Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Hong Kong protesters.

A significant Chinese paramilitary presence on the island suggests closer cooperation between Beijing and Havana than many reports have superficially noted and presents national security risks for the United States, which maintains a military facility on the island in Guantánamo Bay in addition to being a mere 90 miles from Cuba.

The black berets – formally the Special National Brigade (BEN) of the Cuban communist regime – are themselves a paramilitary force used to repress pro-democracy dissidents. They have become a major focus of international coverage in the past month due to their role in suppressing the July 11 protests, which erupted simultaneously in almost every major city on the island that day. The protests overwhelmingly consisted of peaceful marches and assemblies in town squares demanding the end of the 62-year-old Castro regime.

Despite the lack of violent activity on the part of protesters, the Communist Party reacted to the protests by issuing an “order of combat” demanding civilians physically assault suspected protesters and deploying black berets to publicly brutalize and arrest them. Many of those identified as victims of police brutality are children and several have stated that they were not participating in protests, merely caught near an assembly and assumed to be sympathetic.

In the days following the initial protests, Cubans filmed black beret BEN troops engaging in violent door-to-door raids looking for suspected protesters and dragging civilians out of their homes. In one particularly violent incident, a family filmed police beating a man, and a black beret accompanied by an attack dog shooting him, in his own living room in front of his toddler children.

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According to ADN Cuba, Chinese paramilitaries typically deployed to repress ethnic Tibetans and Uyghur people in East Turkestan, the occupied region China refers to as Xinjiang, recently visited China to train black beret recruits. The report did not date the photos of the alleged training but identified them as having been taken in the outskirts of Havana province. The photos show Cuban recruits and apparent Chinese paramilitary soldiers marching together, posing in front of the two nations’ flags, and holding Soviet-era weaponry. ADN Cuba noted that the color of the uniforms on the apparent Chinese officers matched that of PAP uniforms, not the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Chinese state media has in the past admitted to paramilitary interactions between the PAP and Cuba. In a special 2009 report marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the state-run China Daily noted that the PAP had “sent delegations to over 30 countries for bilateral or multilateral counter-terrorism exchanges. The list of countries included in those “counter-terrorism exchanges” included Cuba. Among the other participants were “France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Israel, Brazil … South Africa, Russia and Pakistan.”

China Daily listed among the PAP’s responsibilities to “protect important targets, disperse illegal assemblies … nip illegal activities and criminal offenses in the bud, hunt down criminal suspects, and participate in emergency rescue and disaster relief work.”

A study published by National Defense University in 2014 on the PAP noted that it was initially designed as a joint military and civilian law enforcement and national security force. Among the first major reforms that current dictator Xi Jinping undertook after taking power in 2013 was to reform the PAP as a fully military force, streamlining what had become a convoluted chain of command that gave the commander-in-chief of China’s armed forces limited control over the PAP.

“The reforms place Xi firmly in charge of the PAP, though he will have to exercise authority through trusted agents. The success of continued PAP reforms will depend on elite consensus that centralized management of PAP deployments is desirable,” the study noted.

National Defense University’s report emphasized that the Communist Party used the PAP mostly in Xinjiang and Tibet to repress pro-democracy forces there. Xi’s reports resulted, in part, in “concentrating multiple PAP mobile detachments in areas with large ethnic Tibetan populations, including Tibet, Sichuan, and Yunnan, as well as in Xinjiang.”

“The restructured internal security forces could be more effective in quelling unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang as well as in ethnic minority areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Qinghai,” the study noted.

China is currently engaging in a genocide of the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities in East Turkestan/Xinjiang fueled by a widespread network of concentration camps used to torture, sterilize, and enslave “undesirable” populations. In Tibet, China has for decades implemented brutal measures to repress the native religion, Tibetan Buddhism, and effectively outlaw the Tibetan language and culture.

In 2018, shortly after human rights experts believe the Communist Party began using concentration camps to imprison Uyghurs, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, boasted that over 10,000 PAP officers were engaging in “military-style training” in the region.

In a significant deviation from traditional deployments of the PAP, reports began circulating in 2019 that Xi had moved large numbers of PAP soldiers to Shenzhen, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong, in response to pro-democracy protests there. The state-run Global Times propaganda outlet reported in August of that year that the PAP was conducting “large-scale exercises” on the Hong Kong border. While Beijing never admitted to letting the PAP cross into Hong Kong, Reuters cited multiple sources there in March 2020 confirming that the PAP had operated to actively repress protests within Hong Kong in 2019.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has vocally supported the Castro regime’s violent crackdown of dissidents this month.

“I’d like to stress that China stands ready to work with Cuba to implement the important consensus of the two heads of state and is firmly committed to deepening friendly relations between the two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on July 13. “China firmly opposes foreign interference in Cuba’s internal affairs, firmly supports what Cuba has done in fighting COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], improving people’s livelihood and upholding social stability.”

China became Cuba’s largest trade partner in 2017, shortly before Cuba joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s global infrastructure debt trap program. China allowed Cuba into the BRI despite the fact that its stated goal is to allegedly reconstruct the Ancient Silk Road that connected eastern China to western Europe — a route in which ancient Cuba played no role whatsoever.

China’s ties to Cuba have resulted in growing ties between the oppressed peoples of both countries.

“As a nation suffering genocide and other atrocities under Chinese Communist occupation, the people of East Turkistan, especially the Uyghurs, stand in solidarity with the Cuban people as they strive for freedom from the Communist dictatorship in Cuba,” Salih Hudayar, the prime minister of the East Turkestan government in exile told Breitbart News this week. “China is the biggest supporter and is a lifeline of Cuba’s communist dictatorship.”

Uyghur protesters in Washington, DC, last week joined Cuban-Americans and allies in calling for an end to global communism. The Cuban-American D.C. presence, which began shortly after July 11 and has persisted for two weeks, also featured Tibetan activists waving the flag of the region in solidarity.

The Chinese-Australian dissident artist Badiucao, who supplied much of the art embraced by the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, debuted art in the aftermath of July 11 in support of the Cuban protest movement.

Cuban pro-democracy activists have supported efforts to end the enslavement of Uyghur people in East Turkestan. Cubans on the island also organized protests nationwide on the island in April in support of Hong Kong protesters imprisoned for attempting to flee unjust prosecution under the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong legal system.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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