Activists Detained and Harassed After Online Calls for Jasmine Revolution

Will unrest spread to China? Authorities taking no chances.

ByClarissa Ward
February 22, 2011, 12:49 AM

BEIJING, Feb. 22, 2011 -- The anonymous group that called for Sunday's "jasmine revolution" in China has issued another online statement demanding the release of activists who have been "put under house arrest or detained without due legal process" in the wake of the abortive protests

The group urged people to participate in continued protests, with information on the venue and timing to be released Wednesday.

In the declaration, they criticize China's government as "fascist with a corrupt political system and degrading judicial system" where "officials and their offspring enjoy the monopoly of various resources." The group complains of sky-rocketing property prices, lack of opportunities for ordinary Chinese, a widening wealth gap and a lack of civil rights.

"Media censorship is strict. Media people with conscience are losing their jobs. Constitutional rights are only in paper rather than in practice…. We think the root causes of all this lies in the authoritarian regime," the statement read.

At a press conference today the foreign ministry refused to comment on the calls for a "jasmine revolution," saying only that most Chinese people want stability and that "this is something that no person or force can shake."

In the Northern city of Harbin, a lawyer for a Chinese Internet user who goes by the name of Miao Xiao, said that his client had been charged with "inciting subversion of state power" for spreading information about the jasmine revolution. He is in police custody.

In Shanghai, human rights activist Feng Zhenghu, told ABC News that police had come to his house on Sunday afternoon after he posted photographs of the protests on Twitter.

"The police told me they were told to come to my house by their superiors. They had a search warrant and accused me of disturbing the public order. They took my computer and my printer."

Feng spent three years in prison from 2000-2003 for "illegal business activity" but he believes the real reason for his sentencing was anger over pieces he wrote about civil liberties in China.

"Every Chinese citizen should find their constitutional civil rights… There are security agents outside my apartment and of course my phone is being tapped but I don't care."

According to various reports, another activist, Liu Shihui, a lawyer from Guangzhou, had a hood placed over his head and was beaten up by a group of unidentified men.

Chinese police were out in full force on Sunday after anonymous calls for a "jasmine revolution," borrowed from the name of Tunisia's revolt, went out online. The message first went up on a US-based Chinese language website, which is blocked in China, and quickly spread to microblogs and social networking sites. It called on people to protest in 13 cities and chant, "we want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness."

The call was met by more policemen than protestors. In Shanghai and Beijing curious onlookers gathered along with journalists and officers and few protestors. In the other 11 cities there were no reports of protests. There were reports of at least three people being led away by authorities in Beijing and another three in Shanghai.

"I'm quite scared because they took away my phone. I just put down some white flowers, what's wrong with that?" 25 year-old Liu Xiaobai told the Associated Press. "I'm just a normal citizen and I just want peace."

According to the Associate Press, security agents tried to take away Liu, but he was swarmed by journalists and eventually was seen walking away with a friend.

While the call to protest may not be gaining much traction in China right now, the government's disproportionate show of force reveals how nervous the leadership has become in the wake of spreading unrest in the Middle East. In addition to the heavy police presence, cellphone users were blocked from sending text messages to multiple recipients, the words "jasmine revolution" have been blocked from search engines and social media sites, and human rights advocates are reporting that dozens of lawyers and activists have been rounded up, detained, are under house arrest or missing.

On Saturday, President Hu held a special "study session" with top leaders in which he called for stricter controls on the internet "to guide public opinion" and "solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society".

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo in charge of security, echoed the President's call to find new ways to defuse unrest, urging senior officials to improve "social management and detect conflicts and problems early on."

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