China's ruling Communist Party celebrated the centenary of the 1911 revolution on Monday with calls for reunification with rival Taiwan, as political activists said they were being held under police surveillance on a 'sensitive' political anniversary.
The 1911 revolution was sparked by an armed uprising in the central city of Wuchang, part of present-day Wuhan, on Oct. 10, resulting in the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) the following year.
To mark the anniversary, which is a key festival in rival Taiwan, President Hu Jintao on Sunday called for the peaceful reunification of China, official media reported.
"We should...end cross-Straits antagonisms, heal the wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," Hu said.
Hu said rejuvenation was one of the goals of 1911 revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, whose National Party (KMT) founded the Republic of China, a name still used by KMT-ruled Taiwan.
Former president Jiang Zemin also made an appearance at the meeting, quashing recent reports of his death and serious illness.
Meanwhile, a number of dissidents said they were under close watch over what is considered in China to be a "sensitive" political date.
"Today is the the anniversary of the 1911 revolution, and the authorities have held a few activities here in Wuhan," said Wuhan-based veteran pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin.
"A lot of pro-democracy activists in Wuhan are being held under house arrest, although some of them have attended [the events]," Qin said.
He said the police had stepped up patrols on the streets around Yuemachang, site of the Museum of the Wuchang Uprising of the 1911 Revolution, built by Chinese authorities in 1981.
"There are police standing watch every few paces," Qin said. "They have totally surrounded the area, and you can't get near it."
He said police had visited him a couple of days before. "They told me not to go out and about at a sensitive time," he said.
In Beijing, veteran pro-democracy campaigner He Depu said he remained under surveillance following his involvement in attempts to field independent candidates in forthcoming legislative elections in the capital.
"It has been 100 years since the 1911 revolution, when they overthrew the Qing dynasty to build a democratic China," he said. "We have struggled all these years and we still haven't made that happen."
"It is very painful and makes me extremely angry," He added.
This year, China's ruling Communist Party has sponsored a series of events to mark the anniversary, including the launch in June of a blockbuster movie celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, "The Beginning of the Great Revival."
The movie, starring some of the biggest names in Chinese movies, including Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau, tells a story based on the 1911 revolution and the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 31, 1921.
Dissidents and independent commentators say the Party's celebrations are purely political, however, and aimed at shoring up its version of history, and thereby its hold on power.
Beijing-based historian Shi Binhai said Jiang's appearance at the weekend served as a reminder that the Communist Party's line on historical events, and on Taiwan, would remain unchanged.
Taiwan, now a parliamentary democracy, has been under separate administration since the evacuation planes landed in 1949, after Chiang Kai-shek's KMT forces lost a civil war with Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland.
China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and has threatened military force should the island ever declare formal independence.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.