China blocks microblogs for 'Jasmine Revolution'

Calls for protests in 13 Chinese cities appear to have begun on the web, but were quickly stifled by the government

China has suspended searches for content on the country's popular microblog, an apparent move to stifle mention of a "Jasmine Revolution" that was to be staged in Chinese cities on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, searches in Chinese for the word "Jasmine" had been blocked on a Twitter-like service operated by Sina. But by the evening, Sina had appeared to suspend searches for all content on the microblog, only allowing users to query for screen names, events and other criteria. Another microblog operated by Tencent also blocked searches relating to the word "Jasmine" or "Jasmine Revolution".

Mention of a "Jasmine Revolution" appear to have begun on the Web, telling Chinese users to demonstrate in 13 cities across the country, including the capital Beijing. The call for the demonstrations seem to be inspired by the anti-government protests in Egypt and Tunisia, but it's unclear who or what group started it. A Chinese site at Boxun.com was reportedly the first to post the call to protest.

China's Internet blocking extended to other social networking websites in the country. Renren.com, a popular Facebook-like service, would not allow users to post using the words for "Jasmine Revolution." Such attempts returned a message, "Please do not release politically sensitive content, salacious content, business advertisements or any other inappropriate content."

Along with the Internet censorship, China has responded to the call for protests by reportedly detaining activists and increasing the number of police. As of Sunday evening, it appeared that no real protests had materialized.

The censorship on China's microblogs has become increasingly more restrictive in the past weeks since the anti-government protests erupted in Egypt last month. The Sina microblog and others had blocked searchesfor the word "Egypt".

Earlier this week, searches in Chinese for "Hillary" and "Hillary Clinton" were blocked on the Sina microblog. The move seemed to be in response to a speech U.S. Secretary of State Clinton gave calling for governments like China to end Internet censorship.

China has the world's largest Internet population at 457 million users. The country has 63 million microblog users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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