“We the People” protest banners condemning Xi Jinping are displayed in Beijing

Two large banners emblazoned with anti-communist slogans and calling Communist Party President Xi Jinping a “dictatorial traitor” appeared over Beijing’s Xitong Bridge on Thursday morning, less than a week before Xi is expected to further strengthen his stranglehold on power at the upcoming Congress of the Communist Party. .

The slogans condemned the communist regime, hit out at Xi personally and demanded an end to the “zero COVID” policies pioneered by Xi, which consist of a rolling lockdown of entire cities, mandatory government testing for the coronavirus and the use of a government app to mobile phones. which tells citizens whether they can leave their homes based on what they claim are the risk they pose as carriers of the coronavirus.

A protest in the city that is home to the Communist Party elite underscores years of mounting frustration with China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which it created by failing to notify global health authorities in time of the spread of a new infectious disease, among other ills. options. Over the past two years, Chinese authorities have faced protests ranging from critical posts on social media to riots with angry crowds overturning police cars, most recently crushing uprisings by angry citizens under lockdown in Shanghai and East Turkistan.

Social media users began uploading photos and videos from the Sitong Bridge on Thursday morning showing two large banners and a plume of smoke above them, which reports on the ground have yet to fully explain. A large banner read, according to various translations: “Not PCR tests, but food. No lockdown, but freedom. No lies, but respect. Not a Cultural Revolution, but a reform. Not a dictator, but a vote. no [to being] slaves, but we the people.”

The second banner reportedly read: “student strike – worker strike – people’s strike – traitorous dictator Xi Jinping.”

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

In April, Chinese censors banned the first line of the country’s national anthem from Weibo after it made 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. to wash their hands and follow the protocol against infectious diseases because he was seeing patients with symptoms of a new illness.

According to local newspaper Taiwan News, the person responsible for the banners appeared to be a lone man “dressed in orange and wearing a yellow construction helmet.” Police rushed to the scene as onlookers gathered under the bridge to take pictures and the small fire raged. Police quickly pulled the man over and put out the fire, extinguishing any trace of protest. Bloomberg News, citing sources in Beijing, said “a dozen police officers” arrived to arrest the one protester.

No news outlet has released information on the protester’s identity as of press time or his current location, although he is believed to be in police custody.

“Around the bridge Thursday, a dozen police cars and trucks were parked in the area,” Bloomberg reported. “A cyclist stopped to take a photo, saying he had seen the banner appear online. Bloomberg saw the burn mark on the bridge where videos showed a fire burning and verified the signs shown in the photos.”

The BBC confirmed the report, saying in a visit to the scene that any sign of protest had completely disappeared apart from an increased police presence.

Bloomberg also reported that the heavily censored Chinese social media Weibo apparently removed any mention of the protest and appeared to have even censored reports about the bridge. Censorship, the BBC reported after 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 been under a full lockdown so far this year. The BBC noted that Weibo had been flooded with complaints before the censorship from people who traveled during last week’s Communist holidays – which the Communist Party actively encourages – and then came home with a ‘red’ coronavirus code on their phones them, trapping them in the house.

“I don’t understand why Beijing did this… I can’t go to work. I’m about to lose my job. I am so disappointed. When will it finish;” one Weibo user asked, according to the BBC. “We suffer all this just because someone has to make a meeting.”

Some Weibo users noted on Thursday that, despite the censorship, messages supporting the unnamed Beijing protester had begun to appear.

Chinese social media did not report 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 supposedly outstanding work at the helm of the totalitarian regime.

“The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s key position in the Party Central Committee and the Party as a whole, and has established the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a new era.” 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 importance in advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and advancing the historic process of great national renewal.”

in contrast with Global Timeswhich tends to serve a more international audience, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Dailypreemptively addressed possible protests and unrest in the days before the congress, urging Chinese citizens to be “patient” with the seemingly endless coronavirus lockdowns condemned by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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

While Thursday’s protest was the largest of its kind in recent memory in the national capital, Communist Party authorities have been struggling to contain civil unrest elsewhere in 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” flee their homes and peacefully demonstrate for freedom in September, sparking a crackdown that resulted in more of 600 arrests, local officials admitted.

In the origin of the Chinese coronavirus, Hubei province, the largest and most violent protest against the blockade took place 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 police officers with planks and entered Jiangxi.

Chinese authorities have refused to consider ending China’s coronavirus restrictions, insisting they are necessary public health measures.

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