Scores gather for Shanghai 'stroll'; Beijing quiet

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 06, 2011 11:20 hrs

Beijing, March 6 (DPA) Scores of people gathered in Shanghai Sunday at the site for weekly 'strolling' protests against the government, surrounded by hundreds of uniformed and plain clothes police.

A German journalist and Twitter users who reported the event said they believed at least 100 people attended the passive protest outside Shanghai's Peace Cinema.

The apparent protesters, who did not identify themselves, were among a crowd of about 400 people assembled at the cinema, Janis Vougioukas, a correspondent for Germany's Stern magazine, told DPA by telephone.

Vougioukas said it was 'very hard to say who is (plain clothes) police' and who were protesters in the gathering, adding that he saw the police detain one man.

He said the police also detained him for about three hours and held least 14 other journalists at a makeshift police station nearby.

A larger crowd of up to 2,000 people had gathered in Shanghai last Sunday.

The anonymous online organisers of the weekly 'Jasmine rallies,' which began Feb 20, urged similar passive protests at dozens of other sites across China, including Beijing's busy Wangfujing and Xidan shopping streets, Sunday.

A three-deep police line blocked the southern entrance to Wangfujing, close to the gathering point outside a MacDonald's restaurant, but the police allowed shoppers through after checks.

Police and security volunteers also lined the main square near Xidan, which was crowded with shoppers and appeared to have a relaxed atmosphere. There was no sign of open protest at either venue.

A subway station close to several of Beijing's largest universities was closed for repairs from Saturday, according to online photographs of an official notice.

Unconfirmed reports by activists said university authorities had increased security and internet restrictions since calls for protests began last month.

In one of several online appeals this week, the organisers said they wanted to 'spread the universal values of freedom, equality and human rights' in Chinese cities.

Another anonymous open letter circulating online this week urged Chinese Christians to hold public prayers each Sunday afternoon at the same 'Jasmine rally' sites.

Bob Fu, the head of the US-based Christian group China Aid, Sunday told DPA that the letter appeared to be a genuine appeal from Christians.

But Fu said he did not know whether it came from Christians in China or overseas.

'From the content I can tell it's pretty authentic,' Fu said of the letter, which quotes from the Bible.

'It's a good move because Christians are a persecuted group,' he said, adding that the government had forbidden at least three well-known house churches from meeting in recent weeks.

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