China Security Tight After New Protest Calls

China has mounted a huge security operation in the capital in response to renewed online calls for protests.

Policemen walk with a dog as they patrol the area near Tiananmen Square outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 6, 2011. China's spending on police and domestic surveillance will hit new heights this year, with "public security" outlays unveiled on Saturday outstripping the defence budget for the first time as Beijing cracks down on protest calls. China's ruling Communist Party also issued its loudest warning yet against recent Internet-spread calls for "Jasmine Revolution" protest gatherings inspired by popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. The 13.8 percent jump in China's planned budget for police, state security, armed civil militia, courts and jails was unveiled at the start of the annual parliamentary session, and brought planned spending on law and order items to 624.4 billion yuan ($95.0 billion). This picture was taken through a window.

China has mounted a huge security operation in the capital in response to renewed online calls for protests.

Anonymous postings had urged people to stroll silently in areas of major cities, as a way of calling for change.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says crowds of shoppers were out but it was not clear if any were protesters.

The massive police deployments are being seen as a sign of the Communist Party's nervousness at the civil unrest and revolutions across the Arab world.

The security blanket thrown over the parts of Beijing on Sunday afternoon was extraordinary, our correspondent says.

This was the third week of calls for protests and the anonymous posts urged people to take a walk through Xidan, a busy shopping area.

At Xidan and another shopping area, Wangfujing, there were hundreds of uniformed police; men posted every few yards. Reporters were banned from filming or interviewing anyone.

Data signals on mobile phones were blocked and everywhere were huge numbers of plain clothes security men; wearing ear pieces, watching everything, our correspondent reports.

Policemen patrol along Wangfujing Street in Beijing, crowded with shoppers on a typically busy Sunday on March 6, 2011 amid heightened security with the ruling Communist Party's annual parliament underway in Beijing. China's state media stepped up its criticism of recent calls for anti-government rallies calling for citizens to gather in dozens of cities to participate in 'strolling' demonstrations on Sundays, saying stability was key amid concern unrest sweeping the Middle East could spread to the Asian nation. The anonymous calls for the weekend rallies, inspired by popular uprisings in the Arab world, have heightened official concern about unrest in China amid growing resentment at issues such as a yawning wealth gap and corruption.

He says uniformed police politely checked his identity documents - in contrast to the previous weekend when the BBC team was taken away violently by plain clothes officers.

In Zhongguancun near Peking University, police also closed down the subway and mobile phone networks, and police helicopters were reported hovering overhead.

Online messages said there may have been a planned gathering of students there.

In Shanghai, at least 17 foreign journalists were detained at the protest site, People's Square, for not having permission to be there.
'The wrong idea'

Meanwhile, in a more hardline interpretation of current reporting rules, officials said that foreign reporters must seek government permission to conduct interviews in Beijing.

At a news conference, Li Honghai, vice-director of Beijing's Foreign Affairs Office, said reporters must apply for government permission before carrying out any news gathering in the city centre.

Beijing officials at the briefing denounced the protest calls as an attempt to undermine China's stability.

"All clear-minded people will know that these people have chosen the wrong place and have the wrong idea.

"The things they want to see take place have not and cannot occur in Beijing," said city government spokeswoman Wang Hui.

China's government is aware there are many possible reasons for popular discontent.

In his speech at the opening of the annual National People's Congress on Saturday, Premier Wen Jiabao said there were still fundamental issues the government must solve, which he said the masses felt strongly about.

Among the issues he listed were inflation, exorbitant house prices, land appropriations and house demolitions by the government and rampant corruption.
"We must make improving the people's lives a pivot linking reform, development and stability... and make sure people are content with their lives and jobs, society is tranquil and orderly and the country enjoys long-term peace and stability," Mr Wen said.

BBC