Posters opposing Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly began appearing this month in Western universities following China’s repeal of term limits that could have checked Xi’s power.
During recent days, anti-Xi posters have appeared in universities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.
The posters, written in both Chinese and English, include phrases such as “not my president” and “I disagree,” and are mainly a show of opposition against the approval of an expanded mandate allowing him to consolidate his authority.
On Sunday, lawmakers from China’s recently opened National Congress Chinese approved changes to the country’s constitution abolishing presidential term limits.
Many of the leaflets have been shared on Twitter through the account @STOPXIJIPNPING, which has posted photos from campuses around the world.
According to the BBC, Chinese students and graduates living overseas who choose to remain anonymous are running the account:
— Xi's Not My President (@STOPXIJINPING) March 2, 2018
“We were even more furious that the government thinks it’s ok to hush the people up, while promoting this propaganda that Xi’s staying in power was ‘Chinese people’s wish,’” the campaign organizers told SBS News.
“So we started this campaign as a response to that: there are still social media that you can’t censor, and it’s definitely not our wish that an unelected authoritarian become a de facto lifetime dictator,” they continued.
One student at the Australian National University, Wu Lebao, told the BBC he wished to raise awareness among his friends about Xi’s increasing authoritarianism.
“By posting those bills, I want to impress on them that there is a significant change occurring in China,” Wu said. “Xi has performed as a dictator for years since he went into power, but this move would give him more absolute power.”
Such displays of dissidence are extremely rare in China, given the country’s crackdown on political opponents and rampant censorship of media platforms, which recently has specifically sought to suppress criticism of Xi’s leadership.
Meanwhile, overseas democracy networks do exist but have failed to gain the prominence of movements from smaller dictatorships such as Cuba and North Korea.
During the past decade, the number of Chinese students studying at Western institutions has grown exponentially, although many of those come from upper-class families, meaning they are more likely to have greater loyalty to the government.
However, the rise has also created tensions at some universities, where Chinese students have demanded changes to teaching methods and the exploration of certain topics, raising fears that the Chinese Communist Party is attempting to expand its influence overseas.