By Stephanie Ho
Construction barriers have gone up around a Beijing site that activists have designated for regular Sunday afternoon protests.
The bright blue barriers stand in the plaza in front of the McDonalds on Beijing’s Wangfujing Street, which is where an online campaign urges people to demonstrate.
A notice on the barrier Friday said the pavement has sunk, and so needs to be repaired.
The campaign drew a crowd there last Sunday to protest injustice in China and show support for the so-called Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East. However, security personnel, reporters and onlookers appeared to have outnumbered protesters.
There were also gatherings in other cities in the country.
China has no proper legal system and is a one party dictatorship that suppresses its citizens, says one protester in Shanghai.
Despite the stepped-up security presence, the government has downplayed the possibility that a Jasmine Revolution could happen in China.
Zhao Qizheng, with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a government advisory body, told reporters this week that the idea of a Jasmine Revolution in China is absurd.
Zhao says in Beijing, a city of 15 million people, it is not significant that a few people gather in one place to voice their concerns. He says that even if a small number of them want turmoil, it will not happen.
Chinese troops killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people when they cracked down on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi referred to that event this week to justify his own crackdown in Libya.
The organizers of the gathering are believed to be Chinese dissidents who live overseas. They have called for the demonstrations to become a regular event. The on-line call urges people in cities around the country to gather every Sunday afternoon to “stroll, watch, or even just pretend to pass by.”
Although over the past 30 years China’s people have been given more liberty to travel, own property and study and work as they please, the government acts quickly to shut down protests.
It does not tolerate calls for political change, and over the past few years has worked hard to jail or detain its critics, including Liu Xiaobo, who was given the Nobel Peace Prize last year for peacefully advocating political reforms.