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China

‘Jasmine Revolution’ fails to launch

4 min

 Inspired by the events taking place across the Middle East and North Africa, human rights activists and organisers made a call to protest across 13 cities in China. With only a couple of hundred people in attendance and a significant police presence, the protests ended two hours later.  

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Police forces are deployed in China's province Sichuan. Photo posted on the human rights’ site Boxun.com.

 

Following the example set by protesters across the Arab world and Europe, human rights activists and organisers made a call to protest across 13 cities in China on Sunday. With only a couple of  hundred people in attendance and significant police presence, the protests ended two hours later.

 

Anonymous appeals to coordinate the protests first appeared on US-based Chinese-language site Boxun.com, while hashtags like #cn220 were used to spread the call on Twitter.

 

However, Twitter is one of many blocked social media sites in China. Only a small percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people are able to access these sites using specialised software.

 

Reactions to the call by activists were muted by the heavy turnout of police vehicles and special forces that were deployed to control possible mobs. In some cases, they wore civilian clothing with same-coloured jackets.

 

Media outlets reported some government dissidents had been detained the night before to prevent them from attending. The UK's Guardian newspaper also published the testimony of a human rights lawyer who was allegedly beaten in the southern city of Guangzhou.

 

However Al Jazeera’s Beijing-based correspondent, Melissa Chan, explained in her blog the reasons why the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ failed to take off in China.

 

Despite the government’s sophisticated system of censorship, Chan pointed out that “the gross human rights violations, protests, and injustices which occur in [China] happen to a small minority of the 1.3 billion people here”.

 

“The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt inspired us. That’s why we’re calling it China’s ‘Jasmine Revolution’. I want to see a revolution of that magnitude take place in China”.

Mister Zhao lives in Beijing.

 

I took part in the protest that took place on Sunday in Beijing. Like most people, this was only possible because of Boxun.com. The Internet in highly censored but I use sophisticated software to get around what we call the ‘great firewall’.

 

I think we were a couple of thousand at the square, the crowds were robust. [News wires cited no more than 1,000 demonstrators total all over the country]. There were policemen in uniform and in civilian clothes. There were even some clashes between protestors and the police. I was too far away to see if any onlookers joined the protest. I heard that many people were arrested.

 

Demonstrators gather in Beijing. Photo posted on Boxun.com on February 20.
Demonstrators gather in Beijing. Photo posted on Boxun.com on February 20.

The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt inspired us. That’s why we’re calling it China’s ‘Jasmine Revolution’. I want to see a revolution of that magnitude take place in China. I want to put an end to the one-party system and bring democracy to China.

 

I’m not afraid to take to the streets, I’m already well in my sixties. What can they do to me? I’m not afraid, I have nothing to loose. If more demonstrations are organised, like the one that took place this weekend, I will join them”.

 

Post written with Cécile Loial, journalist.

 

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