Activists Detained as China Web Users Call for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ (Updated)

Messages spread through Chinese cyberspace calling for laid-off workers and other disgruntled citizens to publicly protest on Sunday in 13 cities to join in the “Jasmine Revolution” that is fueling protests throughout the Middle East.

As a result, propaganda authorities have banned the word “jasmine” from microblogs and other online forums and several activists have been detained. From AFP:

“We welcome… laid off workers and victims of forced evictions to participate in demonstrations, shout slogans and seek freedom, democracy and political reform to end ‘one party rule’,” one posting said.

The postings, many of which appeared to have originated on overseas websites run by exiled Chinese political activists, called for protests in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and 10 other major Chinese cities.

Protesters were urged to shout slogans including “we want food to eat,” “we want work,” we want housing,” “we want justice,” “long live freedom,” and “long live democracy.”

Chinese authorities have sought to restrict media reports on the recent political turmoil that began in Tunisia as the “Jasmine Revolution” and spread to Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

According to updates on Twitter, many of the locations named as potential protest sites are being heavily guarded by armed riot police and university students and faculty are being warned not to leave campus on Sunday. Follow updates on Twitter at hashtag #cn220. Meanwhile, as many as 15 prominent activists and lawyers have been detained, including Teng Biao, Xu Zhiyong and Jiang Tianyong. As of this writing, the last Twitter message from lawyer Teng Biao, sent at 10 pm Saturday night Beijing time, was in response to news that blogger Ran Yunfei had been detained for questioning by police, or invited to “drink tea.” Teng wrote: “In the future, anyone who is invited to “drink tea” should not hope to drink jasmine tea.”

But there seem to be differing opinions on the impact in China of events in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Middle East. An article on Monsters and Critics says, “Chinese activists inspired by Egypt protests,” while an article in the Financial Times argues, “Why the Chinese are not inspired by Egypt.”