Facing Calls for 'Jasmine Revolution,' China Tightens Grip on Internet
The New York Times reports that Beijing has orchestrated a massive crackdown on Internet and phone services within the country in an attempt to prevent protesters from remotely organizing demonstrations. The regime has blocked the phrase "Jasmine Revolution" from all Twitter-like microblogging sites and search engines, and has even blocked cell phone users from sending text messages to multiple recipients.
On Sunday afternoon, throngs of protesters and onlookers gathered outside a McDonald's in Beijing, where a demonstration was scheduled to take place. The event was first organized via a Chinese site called Boxun before spreading to Twitter and other platforms. The demonstration clearly had drawn the attention of the government, which dispatched hundreds of police officers to the restaurant, located in a popular tourist area of the city. Security forces attempted to separate protesters from onlookers, and, at one point, reportedly surrounded a man who placed a jasmine flower outside the McDonald's. He was later released after the skirmish drew the attention of photographers and journalists.
The government has also detained at least 15 lawyers and human rights activists, and more than 80 political dissidents have been placed under house arrest. On Saturday, Chinese President Hu Jintao convened a special "study session," where he called upon officials to maintain peace, and stressed the need to regain control over the spread of information within China's borders.
"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," Hu reportedly said, adding that China's leaders must do their best to "guide public opinion."