Call For Democracy Rises Again 22 Years After Tiananmen

Amnesty activists in Italy hold signs that say "This is my Tiananmen Square." A similar commemoration would be prohibited in China.

When the so-called Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa, the reverberations also shuddered through Chinese civil society – first as a new wave of online activism, and then as crushing oppression from the Chinese state.

When dissidents began calling for China to stage its own “Jasmine Revolution,” the authorities responded with overwhelming force. Since February the Chinese government has targeted more than 100 activists and human rights defenders.

The weight of such overt oppression — the worst since the 2009’s deadly Urumqi riots — is made particularly acute by the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Although more than two decades have passed since the 1989 protests, the Chinese authorities are quick to extinguish any forms of commemoration, and to silence voices of discontent raised around the politically volatile anniversary.


Meet China's 'Jasmine' Activists

Following the revolutions in the Middle East earlier this year, government fears of a “Jasmine Revolution” in China have led to dozens of government critics, lawyers, activists, bloggers, artists and “netizens” being arrested since February. Meet a few of those brave activists.

Liang Haiyi aka Tiny
Status: In detention on suspicion of “subversion of state power.”
In her own words: “When the country cannot protect a beggar, it cannot protect the emperor!”

Liang Haiyi was an early victim of the “Jasmine Revolution” crackdown. Her blog has not been updated since February 19, when she posted: “How far away are Nazis from us? Would dictatorship reappear in Germany? Secondary school teachers did a little test and got an alarming answer that history can be repeated so easily, and therefore pay a painful price.” She also posted a video that can no longer be viewed.


New Generation of Online Activists Targeted in China

Hua Chunhui was detained after tweeting about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ © Amnesty International

Jasmine Revolution.  Those two words simply uttered online elicit enough fear in Chinese leaders’ hearts to throw the writer in jail.

Online activists have long been at risk in China but the recent spate of arrests — following online calls for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China — has gotten out of hand.  Chinese authorities are not only detaining seasoned dissidents; they are trying to silence a whole new generation of online activists.

More than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging networks, have been detained, subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces, or have gone missing since late February. The sweep is the worst since 2009 when thousands were detained following deadly riots in Urumqi.

The call for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in February consisted of online instructions to ‘stroll’ through designated public places on Sunday afternoons. Faced with a large state security presence, no significant gatherings took place.