No tension despite protest campaign: China FM

China dismisses reports about police officers beating foreign journalists.

Last Updated: Mar 07, 2011, 17:54 PM IST

Beijing: China`s foreign minister on Monday dismissed suggestions of heightened domestic tension following calls for anti-government protests inspired by the "Jasmine" uprisings in the Arab world.

"I haven`t noticed any signs of tension (in China)," Yang Jiechi told reporters during a press briefing at China`s annual parliamentary session.

Chinese authorities have been on edge following political uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, detaining activists and placing restrictions on foreign journalists attempting to cover proposed public rallies in China.

Those behind the anonymous online calls for "Jasmine" rallies each Sunday have said they want to bring attention to Chinese public dissatisfaction with widening income disparity, corruption and misrule.

Touting the success of a Chinese economic transformation that has lifted millions from poverty, Yang said China`s people were busy "focusing their attention on pursuing domestic development”.

"This is what I have seen, and I don`t want to see anyone making something out of thin air," Yang said at his annual parliamentary press briefing.

Yang`s comments, however, contrasted sharply with remarks by Premier Wen Jiabao, who on Saturday noted "great resentment" in China over those issues.

Although no obvious protests have been reported, designated protest sites in Beijing and Shanghai have been blanketed by police the past two weekends, and foreign journalists have been blocked from reporting, detained, or roughed up.

A Bloomberg News reporter was repeatedly punched and kicked by what appeared to be plainclothes security personnel on February 27 at a designated site in a busy Beijing shopping street. He required medical treatment.

Yang denied police had beat anyone.

"There is no such issue of Chinese police officers beating foreign journalists," he said.

"China is a country under the rule of law, and we abide by the law. We have always followed relevant laws and regulations in managing the affairs related to foreign journalists in China.”

A Beijing city government official said at a news conference on Sunday reporters must now obtain government permission to report in the city`s "commercial districts". No approvals have yet been granted.

In Shanghai, foreign journalists have been told they cannot report at all near the city`s "Jasmine" site.

China stepped up pressure on journalists over the weekend, detaining at least 15 in Shanghai and visiting reporters unannounced at their homes in Beijing -- sometimes late at night -- to check documents or stress the new reporting restrictions.

A journalist was visited on Saturday at his home by police who asked to see residence documents.

In Shanghai, at least 15 journalists -- French, German, Spanish and Japanese -- were held for about three hours near the designated protest site on Sunday, one of the detained reporters said.

Bureau Report