‘We the People’: Protest Banners Condemning ‘Dictator Traitor Xi Jinping’ Appear in Beijing

Anti-communist banner in Beijing. Reads: “No PCR tests, but food; no lockdowns, but free
Bill Birtles / Twitter

Two large banners reading anti-communist slogans and calling Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping a “dictatorial traitor” appeared over Beijing’s Sitong bridge on Thursday morning, less than a week before Xi is expected to further cement his stranglehold on power in the upcoming Communist Party Congress.

The slogans condemned the communist regime, slammed Xi personally, and demanded an end to the “zero-COVID” policies Xi has pioneered, which consist of rolling lockdowns on entire cities, mandatory government coronavirus testing, and the use of a government mobile phone app that tells citizens if they can leave their house based on, allegedly, the risk they present as coronavirus carriers.

A protest in the city which is home to the Communist Party elite highlights years of frustration building up with China’s handling of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which it created by failing to notify world health authorities in a timely manner about the spread of a novel infectious disease, among other poor choices. For the past two years, Chinese authorities have faced protests ranging from critical social media posts to riots featuring angry mobs overturning police cars, most recently crushing revolts from outraged citizens under lockdown in Shanghai and East Turkistan.

Social media users began uploading photos and videos of the Sitong bridge on Thursday morning that showed two large banners and a plume of smoke over them, which reports on the ground have yet to fully account for. One large banner read, according to various translations: “No PCR tests, but food; no lockdowns, but freedom; no lies, but respect; no Cultural Revolution, but reform; no dictator, but vote; no [to being] slaves, but we the people.”

The second banner reportedly read: “students strike – workers strike – people strike – dictator traitor Xi Jinping.”

The line about slaves appears to be a reference to the Chinese national anthem, the “March of the Volunteers,” which begins with the lyric, “Stand up! Those who refuse to be slaves!”

In April, Chinese censors banned the first line of the country’s national anthem from Weibo after it became a rallying call against coronavirus lockdowns. The Communist Party similarly censored the national anthem in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when social media users began quoting it to honor Dr. Li Wenliang, who died in Wuhan at age 34 days after being apprehended by police for urging fellow health workers to wash their hands and practice anti-infectious disease protocol because he was seeing patients with symptoms of a novel disease.

According to the local newspaper Taiwan News, the person responsible for the banners appeared to be a solitary man “dressed in orange and wearing a yellow construction helmet.” Police rushed to the scene as spectators congregated under the bridge to take photos and the small fire raged; police rapidly whisked the man away and put out the fire, erasing any trace of the protest. Bloomberg News, citing sources in Beijing, reported that as many as “two dozen police” arrived to arrest the one protester.

No news outlets have published information regarding the identity of the protester at press time or his current whereabouts, though he is presumably in police custody.

“Around the bridge on Thursday, a dozen police cars and vans were parked in the vicinity,” Bloomberg reported. “A cyclist stopped to take a photo, saying he saw the banner displayed online. Bloomberg saw the burned-out mark on the bridge in the spot where videos showed a fire burning, and verified signposts that appeared in the photos.”

BBC corroborated the report, saying in a visit to the scene that any sign of protest had entirely disappeared other than a heightened police presence.

Bloomberg also reported that the heavily censored Chinese social media outlet Weibo apparently removed any report of the protest and appeared to have censored even mentions of the bridge. The censorship, BBC reported in the aftermath of the protest, extended to general complaints about China’s insistence on using brutal lockdowns to allegedly suppress the Chinese coronavirus, including complaints in Beijing, which has not suffered a full lockdown this year so far. BBC noted that Weibo had been flooded with complaints prior to the censorship from people who traveled during last week’s National Day communist holidays – which the Communist Party actively encourages – and then found themselves home with a “red” coronavirus code on their phones, trapping them at home.

“I don’t understand why Beijing did this… I can’t go to work. I’m about to lose my job. I’m so frustrated. When is it going to end?” a Weibo user asked, according to BBC. “We suffer all these just because someone has to hold a meeting.”

Some Weibo users noted on Thursday that, despite the censorship, messages supporting the anonymous Beijing protester began surfacing.

Chinese social media outlets have not mentioned the protest at press time. Instead, the English-language propaganda newspaper Global Times promoted the upcoming Communist Party Congress as an event to thank Xi Jinping for his allegedly exceptional work at the helm of the totalitarian regime.

“The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and has defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” the Global Times declared. “This reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of great national rejuvenation.”

Unlike the Global Times, which tends to serve a more international audience, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Daily, preemptively addressed potential protests and unrest in the days before the Congress, urging Chinese citizens to be “patient” with seemingly endless coronavirus lockdowns that the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has condemned.

“Confidence is more important than gold in the fight against the epidemic,” the People’s Daily advised this week. “We must optimize epidemic prevention and control initiatives, and further improve them to be more scientific, precise and effective to minimize the impact on economic development and the normal life of the public, and to increase confidence and patience in our current epidemic prevention and control policies.”

While the protest on Thursday was the largest of its kind in recent memory in the national capital, Communist Party authorities have struggled to contain civil unrest in other parts of the country for years. A sweeping lockdown in occupied East Turkistan, where Chinese officials are currently committing genocide against the indigenous Uyghur minority, prompted hundreds to “illegally” leave their homes and peacefully march for freedom in September, prompting a crackdown resulting in over 600 arrests, local officials admitted.

In the origin location of the Chinese coronavirus, Hubei province, the largest and most violent anti-lockdown protest occurred in March 2020, when residents of Hubei broke through a barrier on a bridge connecting it to neighboring Jiangxi province. Civilians overturned police cars, beat officers with planks, and swarmed through into Jiangxi.

Chinese authorities have refused to consider an end to Chinese coronavirus lockdowns, insisting they are necessary public health measures.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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