Chinese authorities tightly censored discussion of a rare protest in Beijing on Thursday that saw large banners hoisted on an overpass calling for a boycott and removal Xi Jinpingjust days before the most important event in China in the five-year political cycle.
Photos and videos of the protest He appeared on the Sitong Bridge on social media on Thursday afternoon, and plumes of smoke were also seen billowing from the bridge over a major road in the capital’s Haidian District.
We want food, not PCR tests. We want freedom, not closure. We want respect, not lies. We want reform, not a cultural revolution. We want a vote, not a leader. “We want to be citizens, not slaves,” one banner said, while another called for school boycotts, strikes and Xi’s dismissal.
The images spread quickly on Western social media but were soon removed from the platforms behind the Chinese Internet’s “Great Firewall”. Posts containing the words “Beijing”, “bridge” or “Haidian” were strictly controlled, and the song named after the bridge was removed from streaming services, according to the Associated Press.
On Twitter, some users said their accounts were temporarily disabled on another major Chinese platform, WeChat, after they shared photos of the protest.
However, such a rare protest at a highly politically sensitive time has drawn attention. On Friday morning, Weibo’s “I saw it” hashtag, where people mentioned the incident without mentioning it, was viewed more than 180,000 times before it was also deleted, and some stickers Their accounts have been suspended for violating WIPO rules and regulations.
“I’ve seen it, and we’ve all seen it,” one post said.
A user responded asking what the hashtag was referring to, saying “Go search on Twitter, sister, if you’re looking for a certain capital, you can find everything.”
Other commentators have pointed out Les Miserables Can You Hear People Sing? which was censored briefly in 2019 after it became a popular protest song in Hong Kong.
Many comments referred to a revolutionary quote made famous by Mao Zedong: “A small spark can ignite the wilds.”
Someone added to the Maoist metaphor: “#suddenly seem less anxious#when I saw someone behaving like a moth putting out a fire and giving his life for the right thing.”
Another added, “You make matters worse by trying to cover up.”
Some netizens have claimed to have identified the protester, including Chinese dissident and former Chinese Communist Party volunteer Cai Xia, who posted screenshots on her Twitter purporting to be a deleted tweet days ago from the protester. Others posted pictures allegedly of a protester on the bridge disguised as a construction helmet and shirt.
Fang Xuzi, a Chinese science writer based in the United StatesHe said the same slogans displayed on the bridge had been posted days earlier on the ResearchGate account by the man believed to be the protester. Fang said the posts have since been deleted, and he speculated that the police did so after his arrest.
“It’s good to know who you are,” he said, “at least you won’t evaporate from the world.”
Such a public and public protest against Xi specifically would have been important in the best of times, but this only happened days after the ruling Communist Party Congress. Thousands of political delegates descended on Beijing for a week of closed-door meetings and highly-designed political talks that is expected to reappoint Xi for an unprecedented third term and cement his power as China’s authoritarian leader.
The actual protest appears to have been quickly crushed on Thursday afternoon. Soon after the photos appeared on the Internet, there were no signs hanging on the road. A circular black scar was seen on the shoulder where the fire was supposed to be, and there was a heavy police presence, according to reporters at the scene.
The officers entered the shops and stopped the pedestrians for questioning. Associated Press journalists were questioned three times and asked to show their identity cards. Police denied that anything unusual happened in the area.
Additional reporting by Chi-Hui Lin and agencies
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