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Arrests as China web users call for revolution

February 20, 2011

As many as 100 high-profile Chinese activists and human rights lawyers have been rounded up by authorities, according to their supporters.

They are reportedly being held in custody without charges.

The detentions follow calls on the internet for China to follow Egypt and Tunisia with its own “Jasmine Revolution”.

The postings, many of which appeared to have originated on overseas websites run by exiled Chinese political activists, called for protests in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and 10 other major Chinese cities.

At the suggested time and place for protests to begin in the heart of Beijing, hundreds of police were on hand.

There was a tense stand-off as crowds of onlookers gathered as well as dozens of foreign reporters.

Scuffles broke out and at least two people were seen being taken away by police, one for cursing at the authorities and another person who was shouting: “I want food to eat”.

It is unclear if they were trying to protest.

According to Internet postings, only a few demonstrators appeared in other cities, although large police contingents were seen at designated protest spots in Shanghai, Harbin, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

Chinese authorities have sought to restrict media reports on the recent political turmoil that began in Tunisia as the “Jasmine Revolution” and spread to Egypt and across the Middle East.

Unemployment and rising prices have been key factors linked to the unrest that has also spread to Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya.

Searches on Sunday for “Jasmine Revolution” on China’s Twitter-like micro-blog Weibo produced no results, while messages on the popular Baidu search engine said that due to laws and regulations such results were unavailable.

Some Chinese Internet search pages listed “jasmine” postings but links to them were blocked.

The Chinese government has expended tremendous resources to police the Internet and block anti-government postings and other politically sensitive material with a system known as the “Great Firewall of China”.

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