China’s security tsar warns over ‘jasmine revolution’

based on BBC News

China’s official in charge of the state security apparatus has warned of the need to find new ways to defuse unrest.

Zhou Yongkang urged senior officials to improve “social management” and “detect conflicts and problems early on”, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

He was speaking at a weekend seminar which took place as an internet campaign tried to provoke a “jasmine revolution” in China.

On Sunday, police dispersed a meeting of people who had answered the call.

In Shanghai, three men were detained. Leading human rights activists and lawyers were taken into police custody in the hours before the protests were due to begin.

But the call for mass participation in the demonstrations went largely unheeded.

‘Mass incidents’

Mr Zhou – a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s nine-man ruling politburo – is responsible for maintaining law and order in the country.

During the seminar, he also told officials that they needed to build a national database with basic information about Chinese people, Xinhua reported.

Mr Zhou’s comments followed others made by senior officials in recent days that suggested the country’s leadership was worried about challenges to its rule in the longer term as the country’s uneven economic development continues.

Figures published last year suggested the Chinese government spent almost as much on maintaining internal security as on defence.

A leading government think-tank has said there have been 90,000 so-called “mass incidents” – examples of public unrest – in China every year since 2007.

Some in China have questioned whether there was ever a serious plan to get people out onto the streets last week.

Academics said it appeared the government was reacting to “rumours” by arresting activists.

The conditions did not yet exist here for such a mass movement to succeed, they said. The controls on the internet, and out on the streets were too strong.

Police dispersed a small crowd in Shanghai who appeared to be mostly curious onlookers

On last Sunday. Calls for people to protest and shout “we want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness”, were circulated on Chinese microblog sites.

The message was first posted on a US-based Chinese-language website.

Several rights activists were detained beforehand and three people were arrested in Shanghai, but the call for mass protests was not well answered.

Reports from Shanghai and Beijing said there appeared to be many onlookers curious about the presence of so many police and journalists at the proposed protest sites, in busy city-centre shopping areas.

Police in the two cities dispersed small crowds who had gathered. There were no reports of protests in 11 other cities where people were urged to gather on Sunday.