© Yu / APPolice officers react during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Sunday.

Authorities in China Sunday staged a massive, nationwide response to head off potential protests after a mysterious post on an advocacy website and other social media outlets urged citizens to stage a "Jasmine Revolution."

It is not clear who organized the campaign, but authorities rounded up more than a dozen activists, lawyers and dissidents, censored Internet activity and pulled the plug on text messaging services in response to the call, according to local reports.

The censorship moves, along with the reports of heavy police presence in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities mentioned in the campaign, highlighted China's skittishness over the growing unrest in the Middle East.

"Jasmine Revolution" -- named for the delicate white flower symbolic in many cultures across the Middle East and Southeast Asia -- was taken from the Tunisian protest movement, which led to the ouster of its president and spurred similar revolts in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya.

The government has restricted media reports and Internet access to keep citizens in the dark about the uprisings, and in recent days, the words "jasmine" and "revolution" were blocked on Twitter-like microblogging sites and search engines.

The campaign first appeared late last week on, a Chinese language website based in the U.S.

© Hoshiko/APA man is detained by a police officer near a theater that was a planned protest site in Shanghai on Sunday.
In the online postings, participants were told to shout, "We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness" -- popular complaints by Chinese against the authoritarian government.

But as a result of the extensive government firewall and the heavy police response, the campaign did not generate much of a response.

Hundreds of people gathered at a popular mall in Beijing Sunday, which had been designated by the campaign as a gathering spot.

By early afternoon, huge crowds of uniformed and plainclothed police responded to the area, forming human barricades in front of a McDonalds.

At least three people were arrested, including an old man who was shouting and cursing, the Associated Press reported.

Dozens of foreign reporters carrying news cameras also attended the gathering, leading some to suspect that a celebrity was dining at a nearby restaurant.

At one point, a man in his 20s was surrounded by police after he placed a flower on a planter in front of the McDonalds and took photos with his phone, but he was released after reporters swarmed the area.

"I'm quite scared because they took away my phone. I just put down some white flowers, what's wrong with that?" the man, Liu Xiaobai, told The Associated Press. "I'm just a normal citizen and I just want peace."

In Shanghai, three people were detained after a scuffle in front of a Starbucks that appeared to have been an attempt to attract attention. said its website was shutdown by hackers over the weekend, but by Sunday it had set up a temporary site with pictures, videos and anonymous postings.

The pictures and videos mostly showed tame crowds of Chinese and police officers.

During a meeting with Chinese leaders on Saturday, President Hu Jintao ordered provincial officials to "solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

At least 15 prominent activists and were detained or placed under house arrest in the days running up to the planned protests, The New York Times reported.

Some of those detained had met in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss a video documenting the house arrest of Chen Guangcheng, one of China's best known activist lawyers, that had recently leaked online, the Times reported.