BEIJING, May 13, 2011 -- It's an icon of Chinese heritage, the subject of many traditional poems and songs, the central ingredient of this nation's favorite tea. But with fear of revolution blossoming in China, authorities are cracking hard down on jasmine… as in the actual flower.
At the Sunhe Beidong Flower Market in Beijing, florist Liu Wei told ABC News that the police had visited vendors in March, asking them not to sell jasmine to people in bulk. She said that the police ordered them to tell anyone who wanted to buy a large quantity of the flower that it was out of stock and to ask for their name and contact information so as to contact the buyer when it was in stock.
"The police told us to report to them about the buyer and pass on any contact information to them. But they didn't say why jasmine flower couldn't be sold in bulk," Liu said.
Since that meeting jasmine prices have tumbled 40 percent on last year, at least in part because of the ban. Other vendors at the market confirmed what Liu said about the meeting.
It has been three months since anonymous calls for a jasmine revolution in China first appeared online. Though few protesters turned up at the called-for demonstrations, Chinese authorities cracked down hard, nervous in the wake of pro-democracy revolutions across the Middle East.
Chinese Authorities Eye Sales of Jasmine Flowers
Since February, more than 40 activists and dissidents have disappeared or have been put under house arrest. So-called "house churches," churches that are not state-sanctioned, have been raided and their members detained. And foreign journalists have been harassed, with stringent rules limiting the scope of their reporting.
Even video of President Hu Jintao singing the classic Chinese folk song "mo li hua," an ode to the jasmine flower, during a visit to Kenya has been taken off the internet.
In Daxing in the southern suburbs of Beijing, flower farmer Wang Haitao told ABC News that vendors there were also informed by the local police in March not to wholesale jasmine.
Wang said, "Because of the police order, I haven't had any jasmine in stock. It's a pity."
Wang didn't know anything about the calls for a jasmine revolution. When asked about his opinion about it, he said, "I don't care about politics."