Beijing: Chinese authorities arrested hundreds of activists after an anonymous online call for people to start a “Jasmine Revolution” in China by protesting in 13 cities, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The online call first posted on the US-based Chinese-language news website Boxun.com and circulated mainly on Twitter, which is blocked in China, the report says.
Chinese authorities have deployed extra manpower to delete almost all online discussion of the “Jasmine Revolution” appeal, blocking searches for the word “Jasmine” on Twitter-like microblogs and other sites and temporarily disabling mass text-messaging services, according to the report.
The Wall Street Jounal report says that Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to China who has been critical of China’s Internet controls was also the part of the group of protesters, but quickly left after he was identified by a person with whom he was chatting.
“It was the first time to try to organize something like this, in different cities in China, over the Internet. I think it was a success. People built up the courage to go out and confront the police,” Watson Meng, founding editor of boxun.com was quoted on a website, The Globe and Mail. “I think there will be more,” he further says.
There was little but the jasmine connecting the gatherings in China to the revolutions in the Middle East.
Protesters took to the streets in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai on February 20, inspired by the popular unrest that has swept Egypt and other Arab countries, DPA reported.
Police promptly dispersed crowds of several hundred people in both cities, said Xinhua news agency.
Hong Kong-based Informa-tion Center for Human Rights and Democracy said that more than 100 Chinese activists have been placed under house arrest or are in police custody in the two cities.
The gathering was in response to a call over in the internet in 13 Chinese cities for a “Jasmine Revolution,” referring to the January unrest that led to Tunisian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s ouster. However, information has filtered out about only two cities.
Citing Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV, Xinhua reported that the movement in Morocco called for the protests on social networking Web site Facebook, inspired by pro-democracy protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
“Today is the genuine start for our struggle and there is no pull-out of it whatever rumors are being circulated,” the Feb 20 Movement for Change said in a statement.
The outlawed Islamist Justice and Charity, reportedly Morocco’s biggest Opposition force, and some Leftist groups said they would take part in the rally.
In Algeria, several people were injured when police used batons to break up a pro-democracy rally in capital Algiers.
Police brandishing clubs, but no firearms, wove their way through the crowd of about 50 Opposition supporters in central Algiers on February 19, banging their shields, tackling some protesters and keeping traffic flowing through the planned march route, Al Jazeera reported.
The gathering, organized by the Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria (CNCD), comes a week after a similar protest.
In Bahrain, thousands of anti-government protesters camped out in Manama’s Pearl Square, as Opposition parties are expected to hold talks with the regime of Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Demonstrators say they will stay at the square until the regime collapses, Iran’s Press TV reported on February 20.
Yemen, seeing demands for ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnessed seven more deaths, including a policeman, in clashes between government supporters and pro-democracy protesters.
Four people died during protests in the southern port city of Aden on February 19, and a student was killed in the city of Taiz, Press TV reported on February 20. Anti-government protesters armed with rifles on on February 20 shot dead a police officer in Yemen’s southern region of Aden, Xinhua reported, quoting the police.
February 19 was the ninth consecutive day that demonstrators had called for the ouster of Saleh, after 32 years of autocratic rule.
Saleh on February 20 offered to open a dialogue with the Opposition, declaring in a speech to businessmen and local politicians that he was ready to talk about all “legitimate demands.”
Earlier in a speech on national television, Saleh renewed his call for the Opposition coalition to take part in a national dialogue that will stave off the chaos.