When I went to China there were heavily armed police at every metro stop, every tourist site, and especially at Tiananmen Square where the 1989 protests took place. Every university has a party member censoring what they lecture, and it is strongly discouraged to speak about any rebellion against the government. Not only is the information everyday Chinese citizens receive censored, as the news media is controlled by the state, but information about the recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain was especially limited.
Which makes this really interesting!
And no, don’t blame this on communism – this is totalitarianism.
According to BBC News:
Figures published last year suggested the Chinese government spent almost as much on maintaining internal security as on defence.
A leading government think-tank has said there have been 90,000 so-called “mass incidents” – examples of public unrest – in China every year since 2007.
A revolt seems to be fomenting! If only the story could break in China…
New York Times, Andrew Jacobs
BEIJING — Skittish domestic security officials responded with a mass show of force across China on Sunday after anonymous calls for protesters to stage a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” went out over social media and microblogging outlets.
Although there were no reports of large demonstrations, the outsize government response highlighted China’s nervousness at a time of spreading unrest in the Middle East aimed at overthrowing authoritarian governments.
The words “Jasmine Revolution,” borrowed from the successful Tunisian revolt, were blocked on sites similar to Twitter and on Internet search engines, while cellphone users were unable to send out text messages to multiple recipients. A heavy police presence was reported in several Chinese cities.
In recent days, more than a dozen lawyers and rights activists have been rounded up, and more than 80 dissidents have reportedly been placed under varying forms of house arrest. At least two lawyers are still missing, family members and human rights advocates said Sunday.
In Beijing, a huge crowd formed outside a McDonald’s in the heart of the capital on Sunday after messages went out listing it as one of 13 protest sites across the country. It is not clear who organized the campaign, but it first appeared Thursday on Boxun, a Chinese-language Web site based in the United States, and then spread through Twitter and other microblogging services.
Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press - A man, center, was detained by the police near a planned protest site in Shanghai on Sunday.
By 2 p.m., the planned start of the protests, hundreds of police officers had swarmed the area, a major shopping district popular with tourists.
At one point, the police surrounded a young man who had placed a jasmine flower on a planter outside the McDonald’s, but he was released after the clamor drew journalists and photographers.
In Shanghai, three people were detained during a skirmish in front of a Starbucks, The Associated Press reported. One post on Twitter described a heavily armed police presence on the subways of Shenzhen, and another claimed that officials at Peking University in Beijing had urged students to avoid any protests, but those reports were impossible to verify Sunday.
The messages calling people to action urged protesters to shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness,” an ostensible effort to tap into popular discontent over inflation and soaring real estate prices.
In a sign of the ruling Communist Party’s growing anxiety, President Hu Jintao summoned top leaders to a special “study session” on Saturday and urged them to address festering social problems before they became threats to stability.
“The overall requirements for enhancing and innovating social management are to stimulate vitality in the society and increase harmonious elements to the greatest extent, while reducing inharmonious factors to the minimum,” he told the gathering, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. Mr. Hu also urged those gathered to step up Internet controls and to better “guide public opinion,” a reference to efforts aimed at shaping attitudes toward the government through traditional propaganda and online commentators who masquerade as ordinary users.
Human rights advocates said they were especially concerned by the recent crackdown on rights defenders, which intensified Saturday after at least 15 well-known lawyers and activists were detained or placed under house arrest. Several of them reached by phone, including Pu Zhiqiang and Xu Zhiyong, said they were in the company of security agents and unable to talk, while many others were unreachable on Sunday evening. Two of the men, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, remain missing.
Many of those subjected to house arrest had met in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the case of Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer under strict house arrest in rural Shandong Province. The plight of Mr. Chen and his family gained widespread attention last week after a video he and his wife made about his arrest emerged on the Internet.
Mr. Jiang, one of the missing lawyers, was forced into an unmarked van on Saturday night, his second abduction in recent days, his wife, Jin Bianling, said by telephone. She said the police had also searched the couple’s home and confiscated his computer and briefcase.
In an interview after his first detention on Wednesday, Mr. Jiang said that he was taken to a police station and assaulted.
Most of those who thronged the McDonald’s in Wangfujing, the Beijing shopping district, said they had no idea what the commotion was about. Some thought that perhaps a celebrity had slipped into the restaurant for a hamburger. But a young man, a Web page designer in his late 20s, quietly acknowledged that he was drawn by word of the protest.
Despite the absence of any real action, the man, who gave only his family name, Cui, said he was not disappointed by the outcome, in which police officers tried in vain to determine who was a potential troublemaker and who was simply a gawker. He predicted that many people, emboldened by the fact that an impromptu gathering had coalesced at all, would use social networking technology to stage similar events in the future.
“It’s very difficult to do this in China, but this is a good start,” he said. “I’m thankful to be able to participate in this moment in history.”