03/03/2011, 00.00
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Arrests, bans and checks show China fears a Jasmine Revolution

Activists are constantly placed under arrest. Foreign journalists are banned from whole areas in cities. Mobile phones are tracked in Beijing. The authorities are raising the stakes by using preventive measures against any kind of protests, fearing that this time they might not stop people if they take to the streets.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police arrested three more activists out of concern that they might prompt Jasmine Revolution-like protests. In the wake of events in North Africa and anonymous online calls for street protests in China, the authorities are taking additional preventive measures.

The police has been holding activist Wei Qiang for days in Beijing’s Haidian district on suspicion of taking part in an "illegal demonstration”, this according to the China Human Rights Defenders. On 20 February, he used his Twitter account to report from the Wangfujing McDonald's, one of the locations identified in a call for ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests. Police were present in large number at the venue and Wang was arrested.

Police has also detained Wang Chengming in Guiyang (Guizhou). His wife does not know under what charges he was arrested and has not been allowed to see him.

Quan Lianzhao, a 60-year-old petitioner, was arrested by police in Beijing on 26 February and forcibly returned to Nanning City, Guangxi Province, where she was detained for "subversion of state power. On 20 February, she was present in Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, on the same day and the same place designated by the online call for protest. However, there was no protest on that day.

For the past few weeks, the authorities have arrested or threatened more than a hundred dissidents or pro-democracy activists in order to prevent street protests. Even though no one took part in any protests on 20 and 27 February in response to online calls, police were deployed in great number in the downtown areas of a number of big cities to nip any protest in the bud.

"Now China’s government clearly shows its horror and fear of the people, as if facing a deadly enemy," the online protest organisers said in a statement that mocked the authorities. For them, the government's response has revealed the weakness of a system that even fears peaceful gatherings.

At present, a new online appeal is urging people to protest next Sunday in 23 mainland cities.

Exasperated by the possibility of an uprising, the central government today banned foreign journalists from visiting the Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing without a permit. The district had previously been singled out as a protest venue and had been the scene of a police assault against a group of foreign journalists.

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday blamed foreign media for the fracas, claiming that they blocked a busy street without just cause and failed to follow regulations. They are also not allowed to take pictures or create “unauthorised gatherings”.

On Tuesday, Beijing municipal authorities announced that they would implement the Platform of Real-time Citizen Movement, a plan to watch over more than 20 million people in Beijing 24 hours a day, by tracking their mobile phones with the latest global positioning technology.

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