State security forces in China have widened their crackdown on public dissent begun Feb. 17 after online calls for a “jasmine revolution” in China on the model of Tunisia and Egypt. Because calls for anti-government demonstrations each Sunday had originated outside China, in the U.S., the authorities used that as a pretext for ferreting out dissenters and electronically attacking access to websites.
More than 50 activists and artists are known to have been arrested or disappeared since February. Police have detained over 100 lawyers, those who have represented peasants, workers and activists in the past, to chill their ability to defend dissenters.
The most prominent opponent of the regime arrested so far, artist Ai Weiwei, is known not only for his design work on Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Stadium, but also as the son of poet Ai Qing, who spent decades jailed or exiled under Mao Zedong.
The forces of freedom in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions haunt the Chinese regime as well. It has long demonized ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang as “Muslim extremists” and executes opponents for “terrorist” acts. Repression continues over the young workers–including the unemployed–whose production has enriched the ruling class worldwide. Revolutions do not break out just because somebody sets a date for it, but the stifling of dissent indicates that the Party fears the timetable of the Chinese masses.