Activists there have been calling for a "Jasmine Revolution," borrowing a popular term for the recent uprising in Tunisia. The word "jasmine" has additional significance in China: It's the name of a folk song that's beloved by many, including current members of the Chinese government.
Thus far, the Jasmine Revolution in China has consisted of peaceful weekend demonstrations in public places, including the streets outside department stores. But the Chinese Human Rights Defenders organization says that six activists have been detained, and President Hu Jintao has ordered authorities to "improve social management capabilities."
In a strange twist, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman -- who is resigning this spring, perhaps to prepare for a 2012 presidential run -- was caught on video at a Jasmine Revolution protest in Beijing on Sunday.
The U.S. Embassy moved swiftly to extinguish theories that the United States is tacitly supporting the Jasmine Revolution movement. Representatives told The Wall Street Journal that the ambassador's presence was pure coincidence, and that Huntsman was "unaware" that a protest was being held on Wangfujing, a popular shopping street:
The U.S. Embassy said Mr. Huntsman had walked with some of his family members from his residence via Wangfujing to nearby Tiananmen Square in order to visit a newly opened museum.
"The Huntsmans were on a family outing and happened to pass by Wangfujing," said Richard Buangan, a U.S. embassy spokesman. "They realized what was going on and immediately left."
He declined to comment when asked if others in the embassy had been aware of the protest appeal, or if Mr. Huntsman had been told to leave by Chinese security officers. However, he did say that Mr. Huntsman walked through Wangfujing again on the way home in order to see what was going on later in the day.
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