February 21, 2011 in Nation/World

China cracks down on ‘Jasmine’ revolt

Police out in force over call for protests
Anita Chang Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Chinese police officers stand guard near a McDonald’s restaurant that was a planned site for a “Jasmine Revolution” protest in Beijing on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

Anonymous origins

 Many activists said they didn’t know who was behind the campaign and weren’t sure what to make of the call to protest, which first circulated Saturday on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website Boxun.com.

 The unsigned notice called for a “Jasmine Revolution” – the name given to the Tunisian protest movement – and urged people “to take responsibility for the future.” Participants were urged to shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness” – a slogan that highlights common complaints among Chinese.

BEIJING – Jittery Chinese authorities staged a show of force to squelch a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution,” with hundreds of onlookers but only a handful of people actively joining protests inspired by pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East.

Authorities detained activists Sunday, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some cell phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities.

Police took at least three people away in Beijing, one of whom tried to place white jasmine flowers on a planter while hundreds of people milled about the protest gathering spot, outside a McDonald’s on the capital’s busiest shopping street. In Shanghai, police led away three people near the planned protest spot after they scuffled in an apparent bid to grab the attention of passers-by.

China’s authoritarian government is ever alert for domestic discontent and has appeared unnerved by protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya. It has limited media reports about them, stressing the instability caused by the protests, and restricted Internet searches to keep Chinese uninformed about Middle Easterners’ grievances against their autocratic rulers.

Police stepped up their presence near major public squares and canceled holidays for officers across 20 cities in response to the protest appeal, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported.

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