Chinese cops snuff out Arab-inspired protests

In the end, the small gatherings in Beijing and Shanghai turned out to be demonstrations of the Chinese authorities’ determination to snuff out even tepid challenges to Communist Party power.

On Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping street, about 100 people stood in front of a McDonald’s restaurant, slated to be the site of the protests, according to an internet message that spread on Saturday urging gatherings in 13 cities.

“I’m trying to do something for my country, to show my power,” said a young university student in Beijing, when asked why he turned up outside McDonald’s. The crowd, including quite a few curious onlookers, was confronted by police officers who pushed them away, shouting “move off, move off, don’t look anymore.”

No one was arrested. One man said he got into a scuffle with the police after he picked up some flowers from the ground. “I had just been visiting the Forbidden City as a tourist and I passed by here and then these people took me away,” said the man, who was wearing a grey coat, black cap and black glasses.

In Beijing and Shanghai, police cars and vans flanked the streets where the gatherings were supposed to take place.

Three held

In Shanghai, three men who appeared to be in their 20s were taken to the police station near the Shanghai Peace Cinema after an altercation with the police. The overseas Chinese “Boxun” website (www.peacehall.com) that spread word of the gatherings called for people to chant “we want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness”.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, about 20 to 30 police cars were parked outside the Guangzhou People’s Park, with two-and three-person police teams patrolling the park, said a report by Hong Kong radio broadcaster RTHK.

In the cities of Lanzhou, Chengdu and Harbin, crowds of police gathered in places where the demonstrations were supposed to take place, although there was no visible sign of any protest, according to Boxun.

Some dissidents and rights activists were reportedly detained ahead of the demonstrations, but it was unclear how many of the detentions were directly related to the demonstration call. Xu Zhiyong, a law professor in Beijing who campaigns for greater civil rights, said he was briefly “restricted of his freedom” on Sunday but later released by authorities.

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