China's capital has tightened security in the latest sign of the government's determination to prevent the formation of a Middle East-style protest movement.
Authorities in Beijing have stepped up patrols on the streets to coincide with the staging of its annual parliament – the National People's Congress – with almost 750,000 police, security guards and ordinary citizens drafted in to maintain order.
Scores of dissidents and activist lawyers have been rounded up or placed under house arrest. Around 15 foreign journalists were briefly detained in Shanghai before being freed, while a number of reporters had their identification papers checked in Beijing.
Foreign reporters have been barred from sites of would-be protests in Beijing and Shanghai and threatened with having their visas revoked if they continued to work in public areas without express permission.
Last week, several correspondents were beaten up by plain-clothes security officers.
Officials said calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China were wrong and doomed to failure because Chinese people treasured peace and stability. "Over the past 30 years or more China's success and economic progress has been broadly recognised," said Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing city government. "The Communist Party's leadership and government's policies are in line with the people's will and their hearts.
"Cool-headed people know that these people have chosen the wrong place and their ideas and plans are wrong. In Beijing we have had and will have no such incidents."
In a sign of official nervousness, even the annual St Patrick's Day parade – due to be held next Saturday – has been cancelled because of security concerns.
China's economy grew by 10.3 per cent last year but rising food and housing prices are causing hardship and corruption feeds simmering resentment in the public.
An official budget report unveiled at the annual parliament session at the weekend revealed plans to increase spending on law and order by nearly 14 per cent.
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