Against the president.. “Bridge Man” inspires Chinese protests at home and abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping was able to assert himself as the absolute leader of his country with the end of the ruling Communist Party congress, but that coincided with growing protests against him inside and outside the country, according to a report published by CNN .

The spark for these protests began about a week ago when an unknown person hung two banners on the Sitong Bridge, northwest of Beijing, criticizing Xi and his strict “zero-Covid” policy.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed smoke rising from behind the bridge, before the competent authorities removed the man’s words.

And he wrote on the two banners: “We want food, not coronavirus tests, we want freedom, not closure, respect, not lies.”

He also called for the dismissal of “the dictator and traitor (..) Xi Jinping” with the phrase “We want a voice, not a figurehead (officials), and we want to be citizens, not slaves. ”

Although the Chinese authorities quickly removed or withheld photos or videos of the two banners, the scope of the protests expanded to reach cities other than the capital, Beijing, where that bridge is located.

The VoiceofCN group, which was founded in March 2020 and includes anonymous Chinese citizens who run a pro-democracy Instagram account with more than 30,000 followers, said it had received about 20 articles showing slogans from China, of which the most in bathrooms, or posted on billboards in schools.

“Most of us work or study abroad, but we all grew up in China,” said one of the group’s supervisors. “Most of the students who put up the banners see it as a way to express our long suppressed anger towards the government. and sensors.”

CNN spoke to two Chinese citizens who wrote protest slogans in public restrooms, and half a dozen overseas Chinese students put up anti-Xi posters on their college campuses.

Many said they were shocked and moved by what happened at Stongbrug, and felt they had to show support for the lone protester, who did not know who he was or what had happened to him.

Inspiration “Man of the Bridge”

The protester, likely to face life in prison, has become known as “Bridge Man”, referring to the unknown “Tank Man” who drove a swarm of tanks down Eternal Peace Street in Beijing, the day after the Tiananmen Square- slaughter, faced. in 1989.

Few of the protesters believe that their political actions will lead to real changes on the ground.

But as Xi emerges victorious from the party convention with the prospect of ruling for life, the proliferation of anti-president slogans, they say, is a timely reminder that despite his constant crushing of the opposition, a strong leader always has hidden currents of resistance.

Abroad, some Chinese students showed courage by publishing posters attacking the Chinese president, despite fears that their identities would be revealed and that they would be persecuted and imprisoned upon their return to their country.

Among them is a student studying in Britain, who chose the name Julie Luo to preserve her real name.

Luo hung a poster at her university mimicking the phrases posted on the Beijing Bridge, such as “Life is not a lock, citizens are not slaves, and voting is an alternative to dictatorship.”

Inside China, a student who called himself Wu said, “I lost my sense of liberation a long time ago… In this country of cultural and political censorship, no political self-expression is allowed.”

“I felt good because for the first time in my life as a Chinese citizen I did the right thing for the people,” he said after recording protests on social media.

Chen Qiang, a recent graduate in southwest China, shared that grim view — the economy is faltering, and surveillance is tighter than ever.

Chen tried to share the Cong Bridge protest against WeChat, the Twitter app in China, but backed off due to heavy censorship.

He continues, “I said to myself, why don’t I write slogans in some places far from censorship, so I entered a toilet and wrote on one of the doors the same protest phrases that were on the bridge despite my intense fear.”

“(The Beijing protester) sacrificed his life or his freedom for life to do what he did, and I think we should also be obliged to do something,” he added.

Describing himself as a patriot, Chen added: “However, I don’t like the (Communist) Party. I have patriotic feelings towards China, but not towards the government.”

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