China has cracked down on activists calling for demonstrations in 12 cities on Sunday for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ inspired by the protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The source of the call for these rallies was unknown and some have speculated that it might be ‘”performance art” instead of a serious move in the footsteps” of uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain, and elsewhere. At least one Chinese activist points out that the Chinese government’s crackdown shows the extent to which it fears such activity.
The Associated Press reports:
The source of the call was not known, but authorities moved to halt its spread online, and police detained at least 14 people, by one activist’s count. Searches for the word “jasmine” were blocked Saturday on China’s largest Twitter-like microblog, and the website where the request first appeared said it was hit by an attack.
Activists seemed not to know what to make of the call to protest, even as they passed it on. They said they were unaware of any known group being involved in the request for citizens to gather in 13 cities and shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.”
The call for the protest was originally posted on the US-based Chinese language website Boxun which was not available for some of Saturday. A post on February 19th mentions the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ (茉莉花革命) and also the ‘revolution craze’ in the Middle East and the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The website states that ‘Boxun has no way to verify the background of this and did not participate’; it has reported being attacked and has a temporary site up:
“This is the most serious denial of service attack we have received,” it said in a statement. “We believe the attack is related to the Jasmine Revolution proposed on Feb. 20 in China.”
The Chinese government has been ‘unnerved’ by the protests in the Middle East and ‘appeared to be treating the protest call seriously.’ It has also been on guard after the release of a video documenting the house arrest that one of China’s best-known activist lawyers, Chen Guangcheng, and his wife, Yuan Weijing, have been subjected to for five months. Chen and his wife were reportedly were beaten after the video was made public, and some of Chen’s supporters say they have been detained or beaten by authorities after meeting to discuss his case.
Quoting activist Su Yutong, who now lives in Germany, the Associated Press, noted that ‘even if Chinese authorities suspect the call to protest wasn’t serious, Saturday’s actions showed they still feared it.’ On her Twitter feed, Su posted that some 14 activists have been ‘taken away,’ and notes that that count is incomplete.
But one can’t help thinking of the protests in Tiananmen in June of 1989.
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