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China tries to stamp out ‘Jasmine Revolution’
Two other people were taken away by police, including a shabbily dressed old man who was cursing and shouting, though it wasn’t clear if he was there because of the online call to protest.
In Shanghai, three young men were taken away from outside a Starbucks coffee shop in People’s Square by police, who refused to answer reporters’ questions about why they were detained. They trio had been shouting complaints about the government and that food prices are too high.
A couple dozen older people were drawn to the commotion and started voicing their own complaints and saying they wanted democracy and the right to vote. One woman jumped up on a roadside cement block to shout, “The government are all hooligans,” then ran off, only to return a bit later and shout again at the police and others crowded in the area before once again scampering away.
Security officials were relaxed toward the retirees and the crowd eventually drifted away.
There were no reports of protests in other cities where people were urged to gather, such as Guangzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan and Chengdu.
Ahead of the planned protests, human rights groups estimated that anywhere from several dozen to more than 100 activists in cities across China were detained by police, confined to their homes or were missing. Families and friends reported the detention or harassment of several dissidents, and some activists said they were warned not to participate.
On Sunday, searches for “jasmine” were blocked on China‘s largest Twitter-like microblog, and status updates with the word on popular Chinese social networking site Renren.com were met with an error message and a warning to refrain from postings with “political, sensitive … or other inappropriate content.”
A mass text messaging service from China Mobile was unavailable in Beijing on Sunday because of an upgrade, according to a customer service operator for the leading service provider, who did not know how long the suspension would last. In the past, Chinese authorities have suspended text messaging in politically tense areas to prevent organizing.
Boxun.com said its website was attacked by hackers Saturday after it posted the call to protest. A temporary site, on which users were reporting heavy police presence in several cities, was up and running Sunday. The site said in a statement it had no way of verifying the origins of the campaign.
Associated Press writers Cara Anna and Charles Hutzler in Beijing and Elaine Kurtenbach in Shanghai contributed to this report.
By Tom Fitton
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