China blocked phone messages and Web sites to stamp out any movement toward pro-democracy revolts that have toppled two leaders in the Middle East and sparked bloody crackdowns in Libya and Bahrain. But unlike the Middle Eastern Despots, rather than stamp out all communication, they pursued a more targeted approach that has proven more effective at stamping out opposition. There is no such thing as a “good despot” but if you’re determined to do it, at least do it right.
Internet messages circulated over the weekend urged people to gather in 13 major cities to demand food, jobs, housing and justice in a “Jasmine Revolution.” Today, phone messages using the phrase in Chinese, 茉莉花革命, would not transmit on China Mobile Ltd.’s network in Beijing. Sina Corp.’s microblogging service, China’s most-popular, returned no related content when a search for the Chinese word for “Libya” was entered. Similar results were seen on the microblogging services of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and NetEase.com Inc. Even the news of the unrest in the Middle East has been filtered though not stopped. China, Russia and other similar nations have learned over years of using propaganda ministries as much as brute force (most middle eastern despots favor brute force alone) how to control the dialog and target the most relevant players.
More than 20 cities including Tianjin, Guangzhou and Chengdu stepped up security measures and universities in Shaanxi and Jiangsu kept students from leaving campuses, the South China Morning Post reported, citing the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. In Guangzhou, at least 500 uniformed police guarded the park’s gates and metro exits yesterday, the paper reported.
The English-language version of the Global Times, a tabloid-style paper run by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, compared yesterday’s protesters to “beggars in the streets — they never fade away while the rest of the country moves forward.” Zhou Yongkang, China’s top security official, was quoted in today’s Chinese language People’s Daily as urging the government to “defuse social conflicts and disputes just as they emerge.”
Members of China’s ruling Politburo held a meeting the day after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 to discuss how to control and shape news about the Arab unrest according to Boxun.com, a Chinese-language news Web site that reports on Chinese unrest and political dissent and is blocked inside of China. The participants agreed to step up control of blogs and other online forums, decreed that news outlets would halt any independent coverage of the unrest and rely on state-run Xinhua News, and stressed that the events were orchestrated behind the scenes by the U.S., Boxun said, citing a secretary present at the meeting which it didn’t identify.