The American Kafir


An Eyewitness Account of China’s Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Filed under: China, Protests — Tags: — - @ 5:27 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

February 27, 2011 | 1851 GMT
Another Round of 'Jasmine' Gatherings
A ‘Jasmine’ gathering on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing on Feb. 27

A second set of “Jasmine” gatherings occurred Feb. 27 in cities across China in response to anonymous open letters published on earlier in the week. As with last week, these gatherings did not have the characteristics of formal protests, and it is difficult to tell how many people participated in the gatherings, given that the chosen locations are generally crowded pedestrian areas and that the participants were instructed simply to walk and smile at each other, making it hard to distinguish them from regular pedestrians and onlookers. However, various reports suggest the turnout was similar to or larger than the first round of gatherings during the week of Feb. 20. Many foreign journalists were also present.

Chinese security forces were out in full force, including regular police, paramilitary units, plainclothes police, and security volunteers with red armbands. Security personnel attempted to disperse the crowds by pushing people along, and construction signs and material were erected near the designated meeting places. Near Beijing’s Wangfujing McDonald’s, street-cleaning vehicles made repeated rounds, spraying water over the street and dispersing crowds, while individual street sweepers in orange clothing used their brooms to ward off suspected protesters. An alternative meeting place, the KFC restaurant, also saw water trucks in place. According to DPA, as many as a dozen foreign reporters were detained in Beijing, and reports from a number of other news agencies indicated that their employees were subjected to harassment or were detained (with some later released) and, in at least one case, beaten. Unconfirmed reports from Shanghai’s gathering, where an anonymous Internet post claimed as many as 1,000-2,000 people attended, resembled those from Beijing, with a heavy security presence and a number of people detained. In Changchun, participants seemed unable to recognize each other and group together, and in Chengdu the meeting place was cordoned off but people did congregate.

Although relatively small in terms of turnout, the gatherings are significant for many reasons. First, they represent cross-regional organization, bringing together people in different locations across the country. Second, they have not stopped after the first week; rather, they have continued. The unknown “control group” that is responsible for writing the appeals for protest has continued to operate, and its primary means of communication remain the U.S.-based Boxun website, blogs and microblogs, as well as word of mouth. Authorities have been censoring key terms but have not been able to prevent new gatherings from forming; they have refrained from using heavy force but have used obstruction and harassment to deter and disperse the gatherings. Thus, while the gatherings have not yielded large turnouts, they have shown the potential to become regular and grow in size. The authorities have responded with security deployments and statements that suggest a high level of concern.

The following is a report from a STRATFOR source at Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing:

There are a few important points to observe in these photographs. Uniformed and plainclothes security personnel could be identified by ear pieces, cameras and general demeanor, and were dominating the area in front of and inside McDonald’s. They were surveying inside adjacent shops, moving people along and taking pictures of any person that caught their interest. The People’s Armed Police were deployed, but they were dressed in ceremonial garb rather than their normal uniforms, indicating their presence was more for a visible deterrent and to serve as a statement of the authorities’ readiness.

People who appeared ready to participate in an organized gathering were present but they were not given the opportunity to do so. Anyone standing in one spot for more than 20 seconds came under intense scrutiny and was moved along by security personnel. One could see interested locals turning up, appearing worried and indecisive at the security presence in the area. Some were taking refuge in the McDonald’s, where they also came under scrutiny of the security services. It is impossible to say how many turned up to participate, as many would have seen the security preparations and thought better of it. Many would have been moved on as soon as they stopped on the spot, and many still would have blended in with the crowd. One could say there were people there hoping to participate, but it is difficult to ascertain, even in loose terms, how many would-be participants were present. Those who say there were no protesters were not looking hard enough.

There were makeshift construction sites set up right in front of the McDonald’s. Three trucks went up and down the street spraying water and creating a very uncomfortable environment for the protesters. Street cleaners were there to obstruct the camera crews or any passers by taking photographs. Security personnel shut the street down at about 2:45 p.m. local time.

Demonstrators on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Uniformed police on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Many street sweepers were deployed to help deter the ‘Jasmine’ gathering on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Street-cleaning vehicles on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

Police with dogs patrol Wanfujing Avenue after street cleaning

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

People’s Armed Police deployed on Wangfujing Avenue

An Eyewitness Account of China's Feb. 27 Jasmine Gatherings

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