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More China rallies planned after tough clampdown

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 28, 2011
Organisers of an online anti-government campaign called Monday for new rallies in China on March 6 despite a smothering security response at the weekend that saw foreign journalists roughed up.

The anonymous campaigners behind the so-called "Jasmine rallies" -- a reference to the "Jasmine revolution" in Tunisia that sparked unrest across the Arab world -- said their movement had support in dozens of cities.

The new statement was posted on Facebook, Twitter and other overseas social networking sites officially blocked in China and came one day after security personnel turned out in force to thwart gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai.

"According to the feedback we received, on Feb 27, 2011, this movement spread to over 100 cities, largely exceeding our initial expectations of 27 cities," it said, calling for people to "walk" for change again next Sunday.

"We send our salutations to all Chinese citizens supporting and participating in this noble movement!"

Both the US ambassador to China and the European Union delegation in the country condemned the rough police handling of some foreign journalists who tried to report Sunday at the Beijing rally site.

Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police had blanketed the city's Wangfujing shopping street for the second week running, aggressively pushing away foreign reporters with cameras and briefly detaining several.

Bloomberg News said one of its correspondents was kicked and punched by at least five men in plainclothes -- apparently security personnel. He required medical treatment.

"This type of harassment and intimidation is unacceptable and deeply disturbing," US Ambassador Jon Huntsman said in a statement.

A similarly tight security presence was seen at the Shanghai protest site near the city's People's Square. No protests were witnessed in Beijing but several unidentified Chinese were seen taken away in police vans in Shanghai.

Citizens have been urged to gather for subtle "strolling" demonstrations -- but take no overt protest action -- each Sunday afternoon at designated locations in cities across China to highlight public anger with the government.

The latest call urged "all social groups, intellectuals, unemployed college graduates, retired soldiers, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, laid-off workers, victims of forced land seizures and building demolitions, and all people suffering from governmental injustice" to take part.

It said some of the organisers were present at rally sites and that those behind the effort would reveal themselves "at a proper time".

Chinese authorities have reacted by rounding up more than 100 known dissidents and rights advocates, activists said, and blocking references to the rallies on websites and search engines.

"We believe these deeds cannot stop the development of the Chinese Jasmine Revolution," the organisers said.

On Sunday Premier Wen Jiabao promised action on top public concerns including soaring inflation, runaway economic growth and official corruption in an online chat with Internet users.

China's leaders have watched developments in the Arab world nervously, as similar issues were among the root causes of the upheaval there.

In particular, China has a history of inflation-triggered public unrest and Wen vowed the government would ensure access to affordable housing and supplies of grains and other key goods.

"Rapid price rises have affected the lives of the people and even social stability," Wen acknowledged.

The protest appeals have demanded official transparency, accountability to the public and an end to government abuses.

Facebook, Twitter and other overseas-based sites on which organisers posted new rally information are normally blocked in China, but accessible via software that circumvents China's pervasive Internet censorship system.

Huntsman, the US envoy, called on Beijing to "respect internationally recognised conventions that guarantee freedom of the press and freedom of expression", and respect the rights of foreign journalists working in China.

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China's Wen vows action, police smother 'rallies'
Beijing (AFP) Feb 27, 2011
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged on Sunday to tackled a range of hot-button public concerns as an online call for rallies across the country to pressure the government fizzled in major cities. For the second straight week, several hundred police officers were mobilised to squelch gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai following the anonymous appeal for citizens to press the ruling Communist Pa ... read more

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