(TibetanReview.net, Oct14’22) – In what must have come as a rude source of great irritation to a leadership obsessed with order and stability ahead of the Oct 16 commencement of the historic 20th party congress in Beijing, a solitary protestor hung two banners in China’s capital Beijing on Oct 13, calling for President Xi Jinping to be removed from office and exhorting the populace to “Be citizens, not slaves,” reported chinadigitaltimes.net Oct 13.
The incident has taken place as China’s official media sang paeans on Xi Jinping ahead of the renewal of his mandate for an unprecedented third five-year term, with an even higher status, at the upcoming party congress.
The unknown protester hung the banners from busy Sitong Bridge in Beijing’s northwestern Haidian district and lit a fire in an apparent bid to draw attention. Police later removed the banners, the report said.
The red and white hand-lettered banner at left was stated to have read: “We want food, not COVID tests; reform, not Cultural Revolution. We want freedom, not lockdowns; elections, not rulers. We want dignity, not lies. Be citizens, not slaves.”
And the banner at right was stated to have read: “Boycott classes. Boycott work. Depose the traitorous despot Xi Jinping.”
Videos of the banners, taken from different angles, have appeared widely on the websites of major international news media, including that of The Wall Street Journal, and on social media sites. The Journal has cited a witness as saying he saw the thick smoke and the unfurled banners hanging from the bridge at about 1PM local time; that police arrived shortly after he saw the smoke.
“#Haidian# tiny spark,” one Weibo user was stated to have written in the short window of time before censors closed in, alluding to a revolutionary saying made famous by Mao Zedong: “A tiny spark can set the prairie ablaze.”
The protest was stated to have ignited Weibo with commentary on the bravery of the protestor. The chinadigitaltimes.net has compiled dozens of comments, and posted a selection of them in English, such as:
“Don’t be silent, speak up. Don’t be a servant, be a brave person.”
“Courage is humanity’s most precious quality. I hope the brave one stays safe.”
“Brave one, we don’t deserve you.”
“You may strike fast, but you can’t kill every brave person.”
“I hope you are free, brave one.”
“So this country does have some brave people after all.”
Online censors have acted swiftly. The report said that a vast array of terms, some only tangentially related to the protest, were censored in its aftermath.
On Weibo, searches for “brave,” “the brave one,” “bridge,” “salute,” “Haidian,” and “hero” were stated to have only returned results from government-affiliated accounts, or “Blue V’s,” indicating intense censorship.
Weibo also banned the hashtag #Beijing. Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app, restricted search results for “Beijing” to government affiliated accounts, the report said.
Searches for “Sitong Bridge” were stated to have returned next to no results across Weibo, Zhihu, Douban, and Baidu.
QQ Music was stated to have deleted all comments under the song “The Brave One” by No Party For Cao Dong.
And Apple Music has removed the song “Sitong Bridge” from its Chinese streaming service while Baidu has removed a page on the song from its digital encyclopedia.
The report cited the chinadigitaltimes.net’s Eric Liu, a former censor, as pointing out that the intensity of this round of censorship had rivaled, if not surpassed, the bout that followed Peng Shuai’s accusation that former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.