China Police Show Up En Masse at Hint of Protest

Messages from an unknown source that called for protests in 13 cities around China generated a heavy police and media presence but few protesters. From the Los Angeles Times:

By 2 p.m. Sunday, hundreds of people had gathered in front of a McDonald’s on Wangfujing, a pedestrian tourist mall, near Tiananmen Square. But in the throngs gathering at one of the most crowded venues in Beijing, it was impossible to distinguish curiosity seekers from actual demonstrators.

Three people were taken away by police, who also questioned a young man who laid white flowers, apparently a reference to jasmine, on a planter in front of the McDonald’s and tried to photograph them with his cellphone.

In Shanghai, another three people were detained after a skirmish in front of a Starbucks, the Associated Press reported.

Wan Yanhai, an AIDS activist who fled to the United States last year because of political repression, said that many of the prominent activists he knows were reluctant to be involved and even refrained from re-tweeting messages about the demonstrations. The anonymous postings, he said, first appeared about 10 days ago, and the location of the planned protests was announced Saturday.

“Maybe it was a joke. Maybe it was performance art. Maybe it was an intelligent political plan, but nobody knows,” Wan said. “Most of the prominent activist groups hesitated to push these demonstrations.”

Global Times, an official sister publication of People’s Daily, meanwhile, had a different explanation for why few protesters rallied to the cause:

Experts told the Global Times that the wave of revolutions in the Middle East was unlikely to happen in China as the Chinese people favored social stability and gradual reforms, not radical ones.

See also “The Secret Politburo Meeting Behind China’s New Democracy Crackdown” by Perry Link on the New York Review of Books blog.

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