China’s government fears comparisons with the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.
By Xin Yu
Chinese authorities have moved to suppress any public reaction among the country’s citizens to the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak amid a wave of popular protests, activists said.
Protests erupted around Egypt on Jan. 25, but were mostly focused on Cairo’s Liberation Square, with protesters camping out and demanding political change in scenes that reminded many Chinese of the 1989 student-led protests on Tiananmen Square.
“When they saw events unfolding on the square in Cairo, everyone was reminded of Tiananmen Square,” said Zhu Yufu, a political activist and member of the banned China Democracy Party (CDP) in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
“It triggered all sorts of emotions in us, and some people were even in tears,” he said.
Similar parallels were being drawn in online comment via microblogging services like Twitter over the weekend.
“I am envious of Egypt, but we can’t do that here,” wrote user “markinahuang.”
“If something like that happened in China, the army would definitely fire on them.”
Unlike the 1989 protests, which ended in machine-gun fire and advancing tanks and widespread bloodshed, the Egyptian protests ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule in less than three weeks.
At least 300 people were killed in the demonstrations and scores more were injured or detained.
Zhu said many pro-democracy activists in China are drawing parallels between Egypt in 2011 and China in 1989.
“Why do people in Arab countries rise up and embrace the universal values of Western countries, while in China we still can’t enjoy them?” he said.
Zhu said a group of Zhejiang-based activists had gathered at a restaurant in the provincial capital of Hangzhou in celebration of Mubarak’s fall at the weekend, only to have the gathering disrupted by police.
Zhu said one participant, Wei Shuishan, was detained at a nearby police station as a result.
Lou Baosheng said he attended an event near Hangzhou’s Drum Tower to mark events in Egypt.
“We unfurled our banner yesterday,” he said in an interview on Sunday. “Then, after we had been there for about an hour, there was a crowd that seemed to be getting pretty excited, to celebrate the fall of Mubarak.”
“The national security police put one of them, called Wei Shuishan, in detention, and then we went along to the police station to support him. There were a lot of people in the police station.”
Fellow activist Xue Mingkai said he and Lou had been put under surveillance by national security police since the confrontation.
“[We] were followed everywhere when we went out,” he said. “I was flanked by two of them, who tried to reason with me.”
But Xue said the activists had refused to cave in to police pressure. “We want to tell everyone that what we were doing was right and correct. We will not give in to them,” he said.
Supporters also laid wreaths of jasmine flowers outside the Egyptian embassies and visa offices around the country, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.
The flower campaign sparked a flurry of activity on microblogging services like Twitter, as netizens coordinated the campaign.
Prominent artist and social critic Ai Weiwei was among the jasmine campaign’s supporters.
The protests in Egypt that toppled Mubarak have given way to a nationwide “explosion” of pay strikes in that country, trade unionists said on Monday.
Kamal Abbas of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services said employees in banking, transport, oil, tourism, and textiles, as well as state-owned media and government bodies, were striking to demand higher wages and better conditions.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service and by Gei Lai Sze for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.