Police squash demonstrations in China
Police drag a demonstrator to a Shanghai police station Sunday. (Atsushi Okudera)Uniformed and plainclothes police flank a man who showed up for a demonstration in Shanghai on Sunday. (Atsushi Okudera)
SHANGHAI--Police apprehended several people, dragging some off by the hair, who attempted to stage a pro-democracy rally following calls on the Internet for demonstrations nationwide.
Police also squashed rallies in at least four other cities.
Taking a cue from massive demonstrations that have inflamed the Middle East, anonymous activists demanded an end to one-party rule via Twitter and other social networking services.
They called on demonstrators to gather in 13 cities at 2 p.m. Sunday, saying they hoped to pull off a "Chinese Jasmine revolution," drawing on the name of the uprising in Tunisia which deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
However, in Beijing, a large police detail marched through the streets of central commercial districts and at least two men were taken into custody.
A similarly stifling police presence was reported in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Chengdu, Sichuan province, and Guangzhou, Guangdong province. No demonstrations were reported in those cities.
"I came for the 'Jasmine' I heard about on the Internet. I just want to shout about anything, but I guess that won't be possible. There are just too many police," said a male university student in Chengdu who came with a friend to a square designated as a rendezvous point for demonstrators.
But before any potential demonstrators arrived, the square was already inundated with police dressed in camouflage uniforms carrying truncheons and shields.
Officers ordered reporters not to loiter around the square, explaining that a police "exercise" was being held.
In Guangzhou, about 30 police vehicles along with seven large buses full of police officers assembled near a park in the central part of the city.
A coffee shop facing the gathering place for demonstrators was crowded with plainclothes police. When a reporter took a seat outside, a security official ordered everyone inside because he said the police were going to remove the outdoor tables.
"We have received notice from the government that people will not be able to drink coffee outside the shop for a few days," the official said.
One of three university students stopped by police in Shanghai spoke to The Asahi Shimbun. "If we don't do something, nothing will change in this country. I came here to take the first step," he said before he was whisked away by police. The student added that his parents had tried to talk him out of going to the demonstration.
Soon afterward the student was questioned by a police officer who grabbed him by the shoulder. When other students around him tried to intervene, the three were quickly surrounded by a dozen police who dragged them away, some by the hair, to a nearby police station.
A group of elderly people started demonstrating in front of the police station where the three were being held.
"In this country there are no rights allowing people to talk about human rights or the rule of law. The police just arrest people on a whim, this is the reality," an elderly man shouted to reporters who gathered to cover the melee.
(This article was compiled from reports by Atsushi Okudera, Keiko Yoshioka, Tetsu Kobayashi and Koichi Furuya)