- Emilie Beckman
Protests Against Xi Jingping in Authoritarian China
As Americans, we see protesting as one of our basic rights. Since we are allowed to speak out about the slightest inconveniences, we do it all the time. In China, however, protests are rare. The rareness is why people were shocked when two banners accompanied with various clouds of smoke appeared on a bridge in the middle of Beijing, China protesting President Xi Jinping’s third term in government.
The banners read “Votes not dictatorship”, “Citizens not slaves” and the others stated “Dictator” and “National traitor” in reference to Xi; calling for him to be removed from power. This took place only a few days before the Chinese Communist Party scheduled a meeting to secure Xi’s third term.
For those unaware, China is currently a One-party Republic, being a fancy term for a dictatorship. It has been led by different representatives of the Communist Party ever since the Chinese People's War of Liberation in the People's Republic of China, in 1949. There has been a standing rule, however, that every leader must step down and hand over the power to a new representative every ten years. What is currently happening, though, is that the current leader has enabled himself to stay in office on unannounced time. This would in other words enable him to stay in office until the day he dies.
The protest, even on a small scale, only carried out by one person who is being referred to as “The Bridge Man,” shocked the rest of his community. Even though the protest, which is like other attempts on similar matters, was very short-lived. Within hours the banners had been taken down, and the smoke of undetermined origin had disappeared.
State officials were also fast to erase any existence of the protest on the internet. Any hashtags or content regarding the matter, even the search word Beijing, was taken away from the Chinese people for several hours.
The Chinese Government shows the world the true nature of a dictatorship with its actions. It is not only about who is in charge, but it is also about who gets to use their words. This is not the first example of censorship or restrictions on freedom of speech that the Chinese people have had to endure. Similar examples can be seen throughout history, most recently with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The worldwide pandemic aroused severe protests on the case of human rights and how the government of China was handling the situation.
Even though the evidence of the protest was quickly censored it did make a difference. People in China as well as all over the world are taking action to fight for what has been denied to the Chinese people. The citizens’ freedom and democracy, their right to choose and their right to vote are all being fought for. People are repeating the message of the Bridge Man.
Posters are being put up, whispers are on the streets, posts are on social media and messages are being scribbled on walls and in bathroom stalls. Everything can be effective to get the word around. People are aware of the severity that their actions can cause. After all, protests or as the state calls it “propaganda” can be punishable with prison or worse.
But people are not willing to let that stop them. Even though the current efforts seem small, they are not useless. Some social media users took to the internet to share and old Chinese saying: "A tiny spark can set the prairie ablaze.” The meaning of this slogan is that even the smallest of sparks can help fuel the fire that is needed to burn down this oppressive rule.