- - Sunday, February 20, 2011

CHINA

China tries to pre-empt ‘Jasmine Revolution’

BEIJING | Jittery Chinese authorities wary of any domestic dissent staged a concerted show of force Sunday to squelch a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution” apparently modeled after pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East.

Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some mobile phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests at 2 p.m. in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities.

The campaign did not gain much traction among ordinary citizens and the chances of overthrowing the communist government are slim, considering Beijing’s tight controls over the media and Internet. A student-led, pro-democracy movement in 1989 was crushed by the military and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

On Sunday, police took at least three people away in Beijing, one of whom tried to lay down white jasmine flowers 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 Saturday on the U.S.-based, Chinese-language news website Boxun.com.

SOMALIA

Warship said to trail hijacked U.S. yacht

MOGADISHU | A warship with a helicopter on its deck is shadowing a yacht with four Americans on board that was hijacked by Somali pirates, a pirate said Sunday, as the vessel was reported to be moving closer to the Somali coast.

The yacht Quest was hijacked on Friday off the coast of Oman, but is now in the waters between Yemen and northern Somalia, two pirates and a Somali government official told the Associated Press.

Pirates have increased attacks on ships off the coast of East Africa, but Americans have rarely been targeted. The last attack against a U.S. crew in 2009 ended with Navy sharpshooters killing two pirates and rescuing the ship’s captain.

If the Quest reaches Somalia’s shores, the four American hostages would likely be taken inland, where a fast resolution is much less likely.

EGYPT

State media: Mubarak has no assets abroad

CAIRO | Egypt’s official media say ousted leader Hosni Mubarak has submitted a declaration of his wealth to authorities as he has every year since taking office in 1981.

State TV and the official news agency MENA quoted Mr. Mubarak’s “legal representative” as denying reports in local and foreign media about the size of the former president’s wealth, branding them as malicious rumors designed to stain his legacy.

The representative was not named and details of Mr. Mubarak’s declaration, including whether it was made before or after his ouster, were not given. However, the representative said Mubarak did not have any assets or property abroad.

Mr. Mubarak, who ruled for nearly 30 years, was forced out in an 18-day uprising against his authoritarian regime.

IRAN

Authorities detain ex-president’s daughter

CAIRO | Iranian authorities detained the daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most powerful opposition supporter inside the country’s clerical leadership, the official news agency reported.

Faezeh Hashemi, who has appeared in opposition protests in the past, was arrested Sunday while trying to cause unrest by chanting anti-government slogans in one of the main streets of Tehran, the IRNA news agency said.

Iran’s opposition had called for a rally Sunday to mark a week since the deaths of two people in Feb. 14 clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in Tehran. Ms. Hashemi’s arrest suggested crowds did attempt to gather Sunday, despite severe warnings from authorities.

One international rights group whose assessments have been right in the past said large numbers of protesters had turned out on major streets in the capital and four other cities. The New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said security forces in Tehran dispersed the crowds with gunfire and tear gas. It said one person is believed to have been killed in the capital.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports