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Halloween costumes in Shanghai ridiculed Chinese authorities

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(, Nov02’23) – It requires creativity and seizing the moment when an opportunity, rare as it is, presents itself for Chinese citizens to poke fun at their dictatorial leaders and the Halloween Day on Oct 31 was such an occasion for the people of China’s megacity of Shanghai. Revellers in the city poked fun at the authorities with their costumes, dressing up as Covid prevention workers, surveillance cameras and China’s falling stock market, or even Winnie-the-Pooh, reported Nov 1.

Videos posted on social media showed police shepherding away people with particularly subversive costumes on Tuesday night, including one dressed as Lu Xun, a Chinese writer from the early 20th century whose fable about a useless scholar has become a meme for China’s unemployed youth, the report said.

The Lu Xun impersonator was stated to have carried a sign that said: “Studying medicine cannot save the Chinese” – a Lu Xun quote – and recited one of the author’s famous sayings: “Those who can do things, do things. Those who can speak out, speak out.”

Police moved him off the street shortly afterwards, the report said.

This year’s Halloween festivities were stated to be the largest gathering of people on the streets of Shanghai since thousands of people in cities across China demonstrated against China’s harsh zero-Covid regime in November last year. Those protests were seen as one of the reasons that Beijing abandoned the restrictions shortly afterwards.

Shanghai had endured a particularly severe lockdown, with millions of residents largely confined to their homes for three months in 2022. Many vented their frustrations on social media before taking to the streets in November, in a show of dissent the likes of which has not been seen in China for several decades, the report noted.

Other tongue-in-cheek costumes posted to social media this year were stated to include a person dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh – an all too familiar mocking reference to Xi Jinping, China’s leader, often censored on social media – and several people dressed as Covid protection workers, who wore white hazmat suits during the pandemic.

A photograph, described as coming from Shanghai, was stated to have shown a person holding a sign with the slogan: “It is forbidden to flow backwards.” The sign was stated to depict a graphic of a man surfing a wave on a yellow background.

The costume was seen as an oblique reference to Li Keqiang, China’s former premier, who died on Friday (Oct 27). Li was seen as an economic liberaliser who pledged that China’s reform and opening up would never stop, saying: “The Yellow River and Yangtze River will not flow backwards.”

Public mourning of Li has been strictly controlled as authorities feared an outpouring of grief for the man seen to represent an alternative vision for China that has failed to materialise with Xi tightening the Communist party’s grip on the country, the report noted.


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