Shanghai has increased security in the city’s downtown area, a day before “Jasmine” rallies were called to take place around the country for an independent judiciary and political reform.
At least a dozen police vans were stationed around the Peace Cinema in the shopping area of People’s Square with more than 20 uniformed police and plain-clothes officers patrolling the area. A police car was circling around the building.
The Peace Cinema and its neighboring Hershey’s store were closed today for “repair of facilities,” according to notices posted outside and guarded by a security warden. The shutter of a subway entrance nearby was also down for similar repair.
An open letter posted on a U.S.-based website Boxun.com called for rallies in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and 15 other cities following gatherings across China on Feb. 20 inspired by revolts in the Arab world. The Chinese protests, known as “Jasmine” rallies after the revolution that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia in January, began after a similar post on Boxun.com, a Chinese-language news website that reports on unrest and is blocked inside of China.
The front entrance of Starbucks next to the Peace Cinema, which last week was packed with customers sitting outside the cafe, was closed today and it directed customers to enter from inside the Raffles City mall.
A Starbucks employee called Maggie, as shown on her name tag, was standing outside the front door and said the outlet was told yesterday to remove chairs and tables from the front today and tomorrow. The reason was unknown, she said.
Several Beijing correspondents received phone calls from Chinese police asking them to “obey reporting rules” that require prior consent for interviews, according to an e-mailed statement yesterday by the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. The phone calls show there may be “tighter-than- usual” reporting conditions in Beijing tomorrow, it said.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced that he will hold an “online discussion” tomorrow morning. The discussion will be on the websites www.gov.cn and www.xinhuanet.com. The website http://ask1.news.cn/ is now open to questions for the premier.
LinkedIn Corp., operator of the largest networking site for professionals, became accessible again in Beijing after a disruption of more than 24 hours.
Oil Price Concern
China’s stock market, the world’s best performer since Jan. 25, is showing no signs that the “Jasmine Revolution” may spread to the fastest-growing major economy. Most China stocks fell Feb. 25, adding to the benchmark index’s first weekly drop in more than a month, on concern higher oil prices caused by Middle East tensions will curb earnings growth.
The open letter called for protests every Sunday at 2 p.m. local time at Wangfujing in Beijing as well as in locations in Tianjin, Nanjing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Xinjiang, Changsha, Hangzhou, Shenyang, Changchun, Harbin and Wuhan.
Zhao Qizheng, a senior member of China’s top political advisory body, said a Jasmine Revolution would not happen in China and that the idea of a possible revolution is “ridiculous and unrealistic,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Feb. 24.