LinkedIn site disrupted in protest-wary China

BEIJING Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:18am EST

A man is arrested by police after internet social networks called to join a ''Jasmine Revolution'' protest in front of the Peace Cinema in downtown Shanghai, February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A man is arrested by police after internet social networks called to join a ''Jasmine Revolution'' protest in front of the Peace Cinema in downtown Shanghai, February 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Access to the networking site LinkedIn was disrupted in China on Thursday, following online calls on other sites for gatherings inspired by protests against authoritarian regimes across the Middle East.

It was not immediately clear whether the blockage on domestic Chinese internet lines of LinkedIn, one of the few foreign networking sites not previously blocked by Beijing, was due to state censorship.

The disruption, however, comes in the wake of a rash of detentions in China after an overseas Chinese-language website, Boxun, spread a call for "Jasmine Revolution" gatherings to press the Communist Party to make way to democratic change.

Attempted demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere on Sunday were tiny and swiftly extinguished by swarms of police.

A rash of detentions and censorship of online discussion of the Middle Eastern protests suggests Beijing remains nonetheless nervous about any signs of opposition to one-party rule.

The idea that China could succumb to the kind of unrest rocking authoritarian governments across the Middle East was absurd, a senior Chinese official said.

"The idea that a Jasmine Revolution could happen in China is extremely preposterous and unrealistic," said Zhao Qizheng, former head of the government's information office, according to a report on Thursday in the Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong-based newspaper under mainland Chinese control.

"In a city of 15 million people, to have a few people standing around has no practical significance," said Zhao, apparently referring to the fizzled protest in Beijing.

"But we're also sure that there are a few people who hope that some kind of turmoil will break out in China."

LinkedIn has no reputation as a magnet of dissent.

Long-term disruption to the site would exclude the company from the world's biggest Internet market by number of users -- about 450 million and growing. That could hurt its planned initial public offering in New York and anger the United States, which has criticized Chinese Internet censorship.

Last year, Beijing feuded with Washington after Google complained of censorship and online hacking coming from within China.

DETENTIONS, "JASMINE" BLOCKED

Zhao's remarks were Beijing's highest-level public response so far to online calls for "Jasmine Revolution" protests.

Few think China's ruling Communist Party faces a fate similar to the overthrown leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

China's rapid economic growth has diluted discontent about corruption and inequality. It has also enabled sharply higher funding for domestic security, arming police with sophisticated surveillance equipment and intimidating hardware.

Relatively few people in China can see the online calls for protests, which have circulated mostly on overseas websites blocked by Beijing. Facebook and Twitter are blocked too.

But Beijing gets jittery about any signs of organized opposition to the party, and officials are on edge ahead of the annual meeting of the national parliament in early March.

Authorities have hindered the spread of information in China and detained dissidents. The Chinese word for "jasmine" has been blocked in searches of popular Chinese websites.

Human Rights in China, an advocacy group based in New York, listed 29 rights lawyers and dissidents detained, confined, searched or questioned by police or government agents since February 16, although it is unclear how many were targeted because of the Chinese Communist Party's fears of the calls for gatherings.

Some detained activists have been later released. In other cases, their families have no idea of their whereabouts.

"We haven't had any word about where he is," said Qiu Danrong, whose husband Liu Anjun was bundled into a van by men in plain clothes on the weekend. Liu runs a group that helps petitioners who come to Beijing to press complaints.

"It's impossible to find out anything, so we just have to wait and wait for any news or until he's let out," said Qiu.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (10)
China_Lies wrote:
Typical response from a dictatorship!

Thankfully, history shows that most dictators end up eating their own words.

Freedom and human rights cannot be suppressed indefinitely. china will wake up to this fact one day…..through their own willingness, or through the voice and power of the people.

Feb 23, 2011 8:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
lighthouse wrote:
I live in Beijing, and Zhao is right. This won’t happen, maybe in 50 or 60 years, but in absolutely no way will anything like what’s happening in Lybia or Egypt etc… happen in China. I would say only a very small handfull of people even knew about the “protests” and even fewer actually participated.

It’s really wishful thinking to believe a revolution will happen here, not even wishful, it’s a pipedream. I’m really surprised how the western media covered it, definitely trying to draw viewers to their articles and stir up hype.

I would say that their is more of a chance of Wisconsin having a revolution than China, take that to the bank.

Feb 23, 2011 10:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
hujintaosson wrote:
lighthouse,

I also live in Beijing and have been here for nearly a decade. The Chinese rarely know what is happening in their own country. Even if they did know about protests, they won’t participate, especially in Beijing where some of the older people still remember what happened in Tiananmen Square. Most young people are not aware of anything that happens in their own country. They spend most of their time criticising foreigners and foreign countries. The Chinese media also spends most of their time making China look good and western people look bad. There are a lot of factors involved, but the Chinese in the cities will not protests their own government much. In the countryside, they do it all the time. I have even seen it. However, it is quickly shut down as the government controls all means of communication. This is why facebook, twitter, and many other social networking tools are blocks in China. Of course they have their Chinese versions, but they are watched by the Chinese secret police. China has a control over their population that most other nations can’t have. It mainly comes from the fact that most Chinese just don’t care. After years of the cultural revolution, tiananmen square, and patriotic education classes in the 80’s and 90’s, what else would you expect?

Feb 23, 2011 11:28pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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