Chinese activists inspired by Egypt protests (News Feature)
By Bill Smith Feb 16, 2011, 2:57 GMT
Beijing - 'We have seen hope. Egypt is our tutor, the model for us to learn from,' Chinese dissident Wei Shuishan said after he was released Monday release from 48 hours in police custody.
The police swooped after Wei organized a celebration of the demise of former Egyptian ruler Hosny Mubarak by activists in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province.
Several dozen members of the Zhejiang branch of the banned China Democracy Party had planned to hold one of its twice-monthly meetings on Saturday, Wei told the German Press Agency dpa by telephone.
'We wanted to celebrate the fall of Mubarak. It inspires us greatly for human rights and democracy,' he said.
'It was a regular meeting. It was right at the time of the fall of the autocratic government in Egypt, so the meeting was for celebrating the victory of Egypt,' said Wang Rongqing, a veteran dissident who had planned to attend the event.
Wei and Wang said the police had urged them not to continue calling China's ruling Communist Party a dictatorship and not to hold any more meetings during a 'sensitive' period.
'The government really fears us celebrating Egypt, and under this fear they use this high-handed manner towards us,' Wei said.
The government has filtered news of the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt, focussing on instability and the evacuation of Chinese citizens, rather than the aims of the protesters.
It censored searches on popular micro-blogs, but news of the protests reached many activists and ordinary people via proxy servers and overseas Chinese-language websites. Hundreds of online comments have supported the protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.
'Today, we are all Egyptians,' famous artist Ai Weiwei said on his Twitter account. 'It only needed 18 days for the collapse of an apparently harmonious and stable military regime that lasted 30 years. This 60-odd-year thing might need a few months,' Ai said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party's rule since 1949.
Some activists have also tried to show their support in public, albeit in low-key ways, in at least two other Chinese cities.
Several activists carried flowers to the Egyptian embassy in Beijing Monday to congratulate the Egyptian people on overthrowing Mubarak but police refused to let them deliver the flowers, one of the activists said.
Three more activists were arrested on their way to the Egyptian embassy, the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders reported.
The rights group said police in the south-western city of Guiyang last week ordered activists to stop distributing information from overseas websites about human rights and democracy, apparently concerned about the possible influence of news of the protests.
The police had previously monitored the activists, who hold informal salons in public squares, but had allowed them to circulate information on such issues as the Charter '08 for democratic reform and last year's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.
A website run by supporters of Charter '08, which Liu had helped to organize, this week carried two statements of support for the Egyptian people purporting to be from 'the Charter '08 signatories' and a group of activists in the central province of Hunan. No names were attached to the two documents.
Prominent rights lawyer Teng Biao earlier said video footage of a lone protester in Cairo halting the progress of an armoured vehicle had reminded him of China's 1989 democracy protests, which began in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
One of the iconic photographs from the 1989 movement, which was ended by a brutal military crackdown, shows a man blocking a column of tanks near Tiananmen Square.
The influential Caixin business magazine broke ranks with other state media this week by carrying a commentary on its website saying that 'autocracy creates chaos while democracy breeds peace.'
'The tendency towards democracy and human rights is unstoppable,' said Wang, 67, who was sentenced to six years in prison for subversion in January 2009 but released on medical parole one year later.
'It is inappropriate for the Chinese government to want to stop this tendency,' he said.
Wei said the fall of Mubarak 'indicates that there are more and more civilized countries.'
'And I think, in the whole world, including China, all dictatorships - all the rule by cheating, suppression and blind policies - will fail,' Wei said.
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