China will not succumb to the kind of unrest rocking authoritarian governments across the Middle East, a senior official said, though a rash of detentions and censorship suggest Beijing remains nervous.
The comments by Zhao Qizheng (趙啟正), former head of the government’s information office, were Beijing’s most senior public response so far to online messages urging “Jasmine Revolution” protests.
So far, protests in China have been small and overwhelmed by swarms of police.
“There won’t be any Jasmine Revolution in China,” Zhao said, according to a report yesterday in the Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong-based newspaper under mainland Chinese control.
Protesters in Tunisia forced out long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in the middle of last month in what supporters called a “Jasmine Revolution.” It was swiftly followed by the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, with anti-government protests spreading to other countries in the region.
“The idea that a Jasmine Revolution could happen in China is extremely preposterous and unrealistic,” Zhao told a group of reporters on Wednesday, the paper said.
Relatively few people see the online calls for protests, which have circulated mostly on overseas Web sites that are blocked by the Chinese government.
Authorities have also hindered the spread of information in China and detained dissidents. The Chinese word for “jasmine” has been blocked in searches of popular Chinese Web sites.
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 Feb. 16, although it is unclear how many were targeted because of the Chinese Communist Party’s fears of the calls for gatherings.
Two people — a man in southwest China and a woman in the northeast — have been detained on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” according to the man’s wife and the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
Zhao now heads the foreign affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.