Chinese authorities cracked down on activists as a call circulated for people to gather in more than a dozen cities Sunday for a “Jasmine Revolution.”
The source of the call was not known, but authorities moved to halt its spread online. Searches for the word “jasmine” were blocked Saturday on China’s largest Twitter-like microblog, and the website where the request first appeared said it was hit by an attack.
Activists seemed not to know what to make of the call to protest, even as they passed it on. They said they were unaware of any known group being involved in the request for citizens to gather in 13 cities and shout “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness.”
Some even wondered whether the call was “performance art” instead of a serious move in the footsteps of recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya.
China has limited reporting on the protests in the Middle East and quickly shuts down most protests at home.
Authorities appeared to be treating the protest call seriously. Families and friends reported the detention or harassment of several activists, and some said they had been warned not to participate Sunday.
Police pulled Beijing lawyer Jiang Tianyong into a car and drove away, his wife, Jin Bianling, said. She told The Associated Press by phone she was still waiting for more information Saturday night.
Su Yutong, an activist who now lives in Germany, said that even if Chinese authorities suspect the call to protest wasn’t serious, Saturday’s actions showed they still feared it.
“If they act this way, they’ll push this performance art into the real thing,” she said in an e-mail.
In a Twitter post, Su listed at least 14 people who had been taken away and called that count incomplete.