China clamping down to prevent Mideast-style protests
Thursday, February 24, 2011
BEIJING - A previously unknown group has urged Chinese citizens to replicate the popular protests in the Middle East and North Africa by staging peaceful "jasmine rallies" in cities across China every Sunday afternoon to demand greater accountability, an independent judiciary and an end to corruption.
The call went out in an unsigned open letter posted on a Chinese-language Web site, Boxun.com, a bulletin board for mostly overseas Chinese dissidents and bloggers that is blocked by China's Internet firewall. It was unclear how many Chinese could see the appeal or take part.
The letter listed public squares, parks and department stores in 13 cities where the nonviolent "strolls" would take place. It said people in cities not listed should go to the central square in their cities and do the same.
Chinese authorities appear to be watching closely for signs of unrest. Last weekend, President Hu Jintao called an urgent meeting at the Central Party School to tell his provincial and ministerial colleagues to be mindful of "social conflict" brewing in society.