BEIJING, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The growing Tibetan unrest in China highlights the difficulties China is facing in policing the country, experts said.
Although Chinese authorities have cracked down on Tibetan protests in Tibet and in Xinjiang, the unrest has spread to the southwest region, which has a large Tibetan population, despite heightened security and surveillance, the Financial Times reported.
The difficulties have only shown that higher spending on internal security has not adequately addressed structural problems facing the system.
"Official rates of crime and social unrest have risen much faster than the size of the public security forces over the past three decades," Murray Scot Tanner, a China analyst at CNA, a research company in Virginia, told the Times.
Kam Wong, an expert on Chinese law enforcement at Cincinnati's Xavier University, said with the advent of market reforms in China, the country's police force increased only to 863,000 officers by 2003 from 680,000 in 1978.
Since then, however, the numbers have risen sharply, totaling about 2 million as of last year, state media figures say. But that still works out to only 150 officers per 100,000 people, or just half the world average, the Times said.
Leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, have called for a more proactive approach to security, requiring law enforcement officers to pre-empt conflict through more active early-stage mediation at community level and stronger grassroots intelligence gathering.
However, China's police force remains crippled by huge regional disparities and institutional weaknesses, the Times said.
"There is a tremendous gap in the number of public security police per-capita and the per capita law enforcement budgets of China's largest cities and richest provinces and its poorer, interior provinces," Tanner said.
"The number of hotspots [in the recent Tibetan protests in Sichuan province] are increasing, and some of them are unexpected," said Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibet studies program at Columbia University.
As a result, local authorities are forced to handle emergency situations that exceed their capabilities.
The report said China's internal security forces must also deal with their other security staff, including the notorious state security forces in charge of surveillance of political dissidents.
"A huge portion of the security work is now being done by units that are not formally government employees, and probably have little or no legal training," said Tanner.