China Power

Jasmine Lacks Spark

Another Sunday, another heavy police presence in Beijing and elsewhere to deter mass Jasmine rallies.

Just following up on the latest Jasmine rally calls in China. Again, the authorities weren’t taking any chances, with the turnout of security forces in Beijing, for example, more visibly heavy than the previous weekend.

Foreign reporters were generally denied access to the would-be protest sites and threatened with having their visas revoked if they tried to defy the restrictions, while dozens of dissidents and rights activists were also reportedly rounded up.

An estimated 740,000 regular and temporary security officials were mobilized, perhaps not surprising given the fact that the planned protests were to take place against the backdrop of the annual parliamentary session.

In addition to the heavy police presence, I’ve heard from several people in Beijing yesterday who said they experienced significant problems with mobile phone reception, suggesting that signals were being blocked in an effort to deter any kind of organized gathering.

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Three weeks in now, and it seems unlikely that this particular effort at mobilizing Chinese is going to gain much traction. The unrest in Tunisia that touched off uprisings around the Arab world was triggered by video of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself alight outside the parliament after having his belongings confiscated by police.

Short of a similarly dramatic sacrifice, and a breakdown in what Kelley Currie described for us here as China’s relatively savvy authoritarianism, then for now at least it seems unlikely that the unrest halfway across the globe will make its presence felt in Beijing.