Cover photo courtesy of 24/7 China News
Across China this past weekend, protests have erupted to express discontent with the country’s invasive “Zero COVID Policy” and wide-reaching surveillance and censorship, with some going as far as to call for the removal of the Chinese Communist Party’s Chairman, Xi Jinping. Protestors have notably been holding up white pieces of printer paper to represent their censorship, which has caused these protests to be dubbed, “The White Paper Revolution.” These are the largest protests in the country since the famed protest and subsequent massacre in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. These protests, if allowed to continue, will have lasting implications for the future of the Chinese government, but more importantly, the Chinese people.
These protests were sparked by the death of 10 people in a building in Urumqi, China, where people were unable to escape a fire due to being trapped inside because of enforcement of China’s “Zero COVID Policy.” This policy heavy-handedly attempts to stop all transmission of COVID-19 in the country through mass lockdowns. It has been extreme in its enforcement, with the government going so far as to weld peoples’ doors shut to keep them from leaving their homes. These extreme measures are unpopular with many, as they are stopping people from going to work, seeing friends, and as a whole, living their lives freely. One man who shares this belief has recently gone viral for knocking down the barriers outside of his business and sharing his discontent with the world, saying, “I am legally running a business. Last night, I slept in the store and this morning, fences were put up. One word by the local government and this can be done. This is a law-based society. If laws cannot protect us, we will protect ourselves.” These protests are the result of many years of oppression by the Chinese Communist Party and the anger that it has caused.
China’s invasive censorship has also caused much of the discontent expressed in the protests. China restricts access to the internet and only allows party-controlled websites like WeChat, which the government heavily monitors. This makes it hard for information that criticizes the government to disseminate both in and outside of China, which many citizens don’t like.
These protestors, including this shop owner, feel so strongly that they are willing to risk not only their livelihoods but also their lives. The Chinese Communist Party has a history of quashing dissent and rebellion, most notably at the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, where protestors were demonstrating against the government. This protest lasted from April 15th until June 4th, 1989, when the Chinese military opened fire on protestors. The exact death toll is still not known, but it is currently estimated to range from hundreds to thousands of people murdered. At this protest, the famous Tank Man photo (shown below) was taken, which has been the face of Chinese opposition to the powers that be. The protests that are currently happening may finally accomplish the goals that the protestors at Tiananmen Square were aiming for.
While these protests are currently small relative to China’s total size, if they continue, they may lead to the toppling of Jinping, or potentially the entire communist regime.