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Will Arab world’s freedom wave reach Iran or China?

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But a Chinese government made nervous by the democracy tsunami in the Arab world may also be planning to temper coercion with incentives and economic reforms. The latest five-year plan seeks to increase wages and improve living conditions, not only for the peasant farmers who scratch a living from the soil, but also for the emerging middle class, which has become more vocal in its concerns over quality-of-life issues.

The Islamic, but non-Arab, nation of Iran has been dealing harshly with Iranian citizens emboldened by events in the Arab world to seek political change in their country. Skirmishes have taken place in cities like Mashhad, Shiraz, Kermanshah, and Isfahan as well as in the capital, Tehran. Al Jazeera reports that security forces in Tehran have used tear gas, pepper spray, and batons against protesters, sending dozens to the hospital.

Demonstrators were particularly angered by the disappearance of the two main opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who, reports suggest, are under house arrest or in prison.

The Paris-based People’s Mojahedin Organization, an antigovernment force of exiled Iranian dissidents with sources inside Iran, reported that the regime planned to mobilize 15,000 members of the Basij paramilitary forces to suppress demonstrations in Tehran. These are the motorcycle-riding, baton-wielding government agents who have been captured on TV in earlier rallies slashing at protesters.

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