The Chinese authorities have begun a clampdown on activities by foreigners, including the Shanghai's St. Patrick's Day parade, as they are deemed threatening to political stability.
The authorities' decision to initiate the clampdown stemmed from an anonymous Internet campaign urging the people of China to emulate the protests and revolutions that have taken place across the Middle East in recent weeks.
Shanghai authorities have objected to the location of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade which was set to take place on March 12. Over 2,000 people were expected to congregate which pressurized the Irish organizations involved to cancel the event.
The St. Patrick's Day parade was set to take place on a major street near a cinema which had been mentioned in the anonymous Internet campaign. The campaign urged people to gather every Sunday to show their displeasure with the Chinese government.
The Irish consul general in Shanghai, Conor O’Riordan, said concerns over the parade came to a boil on Monday. The Chinese officials had agreed to allow the parade if they found a "more modest" route.
Unable to change the route at such short notice, they canceled the event. A volunteer-run organization will hold an invitation-only, indoor event instead.
Other events being planned by foreigners have also been canceled. One diplomat who spoke to the New York Times said, "We’ve noticed that a somewhat larger number of our cultural and educational programs around China are being postponed or canceled, but we haven’t been notified by Chinese authorities of any specific reason.”
Foreign journalists in Beijing and Shanghai have been dressed down on videotape. They have been warned that they broke reporting regulations, visiting locations that have been selected as protest sites on Internet postings. The journalists were warned that their visas and credentials would be revoked according to a report from the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China and the New York Times.
Officials in Beijing have announced that they intend to monitor the movement of 20 million Beijing residents through the signal transmitted by their cellphones. The officials said the move is an effort to track traffic and subway congestion, but the Chinese media believes this is so they can detect any possible protests of gatherings.
The activity in Tunisia, Egypt and across the Middle East has made Chinese officials nervous, and political activists have been treated particularly harshly. Four lawyers working on rights issues have disappeared, and at least 100 activists have been detained and many charged with crimes which could mean life sentences.