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Will the Occupy Wall Street protests come to China?

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) No protest here (in June when this photo was taken, or now). People go about their business at Beijing's Solana Mall.

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As the “Occupy Wall Street” movement spread to four continents over the weekend, guess which major world capital did not see any protesters?

Unsurprisingly, since unofficial public gatherings of any kind are taboo in China, Tiananmen Square was not teeming with anticapitalist demonstrators on Saturday.

Not that China might not be ripe for the spreading movement: A growing gulf between rich and poor here would make this fertile ground for the 99-percenters.

And the government knows it, which is why it is censoring any effort to organize protests in China. Type “Occupy Beijing” into Internet search engines here and you get either completely irrelevant results, or references to protests in America, Japan, Singapore … anywhere but China.

There is an “Occupy Beijing” group on Facebook, but you can only get onto Facebook – which is blocked by the Great Firewall – if you have censorship-evading software, a comparative rarity in China. That makes the social networking site a poor organizing tool here.

A group of older men did mount a brief demonstration last week in a park in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, but it had a very different feel to it from the youthful tent cities that have sprung up in European capitals, to judge by a video that made it onto the Chinese web.

“Proletarians of the world, Unite!” read their red armbands, reminiscent of Mao’s days. “At least 700 arrested in New York, democracy and liberty trampled on,” explained a flyer that organizers were handing out.

Even the video of this event proved too inflammatory for the Chinese authorities. It was taken down from the Sina.com website within a day or so.

A pop-up demonstration of some sort does seem to have taken place in the heartland of Chinese capitalism, to judge by photos linked to from the “Occupy Shanghai” Facebook page. Pictures show a man in a panda mask in a number of different locations in Shanghai holding up a sign reading “We are the 99 percent. We do not need greedy financial system. We need to move forward mankind” in Chinese and English.

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Another man held up a similar sign in the university city of Nanjing. But those two men and their photographer accomplices appear to constitute the full extent of Chinese mainland public participation on the day “Occupy Wall Street” went global.


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