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[liberationtech] China Jasmine Revolution

feng37 dxzine at
Sun Feb 20 02:29:30 PST 2011

Hi, newcomer to the list (@feng37 on Twitter). Thanks for sharing, it's
quite jarring to see this kind of triumphalism over the fact that the
protests were effectively squashed.

On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at>wrote:

>  The Revolution That Wasn’t
> February 20, 2011
> By C. Custer <>
> <>Late last
> night, I noticed that calls for large protests in several major Chinese
> cities were circulating on Twitter. Using the hashtag #cn220, users were
> reposting information from the overseas Chinese website Boxun, where an
> anonymous user had called for a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution.” This morning,
> those reports were mixed with reports that police and the military had
> already begun to form up in the locations designated for protest around the
> country. Naturally, I decided it would be a good idea to grab a camera and
> head to the Wangfujing area, where Beijing’s protest was supposed to happen.
> I should note that I didn’t actually expect to find much. This news was
> being passed around almost exclusively on websites blocked in China, and
> many of the people making tweets seemed to be making them from outside
> China. There were people announcing that China’s jasmine revolution had
> begun at 11 in the morning, three hours before the protests were even
> supposed to start. But very few Chinese people had even heard about it, and
> many of the Chinese twitter users I follow said they had already been
> threatened, detained, or otherwise instructed not to go by police or Party
> authorities.
> <>When we
> arrived, around 1:40, there was already a small group of people clustered
> around the entrance to McDonalds, the area designated online as the center
> of the protest. Most of them were carrying expensive photo or video cameras,
> and it was clear that a good percentage of the crowd was journalists.
> I met up with a couple foreign correspondents I happen to know who had
> arrived slightly before me. We joked for a little whole about the
> “revolutionary” atmosphere, or lack thereof, and the ridiculousness of the
> growing crowd of people, photographing itself. Of course, we were also
> participants.
> <>A little
> after 2pm, the crowd reached its largest, perhaps two or three hundred
> people, although there were people coming and leaving all the time because
> Wangfujing is naturally a fairly busy place. Aside from one moment, where we
> could see a bouquet of flowers fly above the heads of the center of the
> crowd–perhaps they were jasmine flowers?–I saw nothing at any point that
> could be considered protesting. No one shouted slogans, no one held signs,
> it was just a group of people standing around photographing each other.
> Of course, the crowd drew an increasingly heavy police presence, and they
> herded people around the area for more than an hour before managing to more
> or less clear the place out. At one point, they drove everyone from in front
> of the McDonalds, so the crowd moved along the building’s side, blocking the
> road there, at which point the police herded everyone back in front of the
> McDonalds.
> <>For the
> most part, the police showed surprising restraint, at least for Chinese
> cops. I saw no incidents of violence, although I did overhear an argument
> between a citizen and a police officer who had confiscated the man’s cell
> phone, and I did personally get into a shouting match with a police officer
> who shoved me. There were other reports of roughhousing, but nothing more
> than a bit of shoving and pushing.
> After an hour or so, we left. There were still some people hanging around,
> but it was clear that everyone was waiting to see what would happen and no
> one was going to actually do anything. Even the police were getting bored.
> As we left, we passed a large group of them and overheard their commander
> say “Back to normal!” As we walked down the stairs and into the subway
> station, they piled into their vans and began to drive away.
> <>It’s clear
> that if change will come to China, it will come from within. A revolution
> cannot be hoped or tweeted into existence by overseas Chinese, or
> overzealous Twitter fans drunk off their so-called victories in North
> Africa.
> As a side note, I continue to marvel at the Beijing police’s ability to
> take nothing and turn it into an incident. Had they not come out in such
> large numbers and not tried to force people to leave, I suspect this would
> have been an even smaller “protest”.
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