Their presence in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities Sunday was seen as response to calls by a previously unknown group for peaceful, silent "Jasmine" gatherings in Chinese cities on Sunday afternoons, The Washington Post reported. The "Jasmine" reference is to the Tunisian uprising last month that forced the ouster of its president.
The calls for peaceful gatherings in China have come from an unknown group using a Chinese language Web site based overseas, the report said. An earlier call for such a gathering fizzled.
The report said the latest calls urged rallies in commercial areas, public squares and parks, so the silent protesters could blend in with other people to avoid arrest. In Shanghai, the report said, authorities used a water truck to disperse people.
Chinese Communist leaders remain nervous as protests elsewhere are directed against authoritarian rulers, the Post said.
Part of the Chinese leaders' response has included using the state-run media to assert China cannot be equated with such regimes. The leaders also are aware of the need to deal with the widening gap between the rich and poor, the Post said.