Asia-Pacific

China's security tsar warns over 'jasmine revolution'

Police in Shanghai, China - 20 February 2011
Police dispersed a small crowd in Shanghai who appeared to be mostly curious onlookers

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.

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