Jittery Chinese authorities wary of any domestic dissent staged a show of force today to squelch a mysterious online call for a "Jasmine Revolution"—the same name given to the Tunisian protest movement—with only a handful of people joining protests apparently modeled on the pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East. Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some cell phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests in Beijing, Shanghai, and 11 other major cities.
Police took at least three people away in Beijing, one of whom tried to place white jasmine flowers on a planter while hundreds of people milled about the protest gathering spot, outside a McDonald's on the capital's busiest shopping street. In Shanghai, police led away three people near the planned protest spot after they scuffled in an apparent bid to grab the attention of passers-by. Many activists said they didn't know who was behind the campaign and weren't sure what to make of the call to protest, which first circulated yesterday on the US-based Chinese-language news website Boxun.com. Participants were urged to shout, "We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness."