There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,
but there must never be a time
when we fail to protest.
– Elie Wiesel
Something unusual happened in Beijing, or rather, something very courageous. Just days before the Communist Party’s 20th Congress, someone unfurled two banners on Sitong Bridge in the Haidian district of Beijing. Moreover, to attract the attention of passers-by, the protestor lit a fire on the bridge. Although normally this kind of act would pass as an act of protest, in China it is not the case. In China, such acts could lead to life imprisonment, torture, or forced disappearance. The CCP sees even the slightest criticism as an act of sedition and crushes dissent with an iron-clad fist. So the fact that someone was able to stage any kind of protest is quite remarkable. In such a suffocating situation under ruthless state censorship, this act is a real symbol of public resentment and frustration.
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The first banner says,
“No to COVID tests, yes to food, No to lockdowns, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity, No to the cultural revolution, yes to reform, No to leaders, yes to votes. Don’t be a slave, be a citizen.”
The second banner was even more explosive because it directly criticises dictator Xi. The second banner says,
“Remove the traitor and dictator Xi Jinping.”
This quickly spread across Chinese social media platforms like wildfire. Even the western media started to be flooded with these pictures and banners. What made this the talk of the town was the sheer boldness of the person. Carrying out such a gutsy act, especially before a politically sensitive event that would certainly draw ire from the authorities, is no cakewalk. Doing it means going out on a one-way mission.
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You might criticize Chinese authorities for several reasons, like genocide, poor economic policies, corruption, etc. But one field where the efficiency and extent of the CCP are unparalleled is censorship. Censoring things is a favorite leisure activity for Chinese officials. Needless to say, all the photos and videos of this incident are being scrubbed from the Chinese internet and social media platforms. Even words like “warrior” and “courageous person” were censored because people used these words for the protestors. Several people had their WeChat accounts suspended for sharing photos of the incident. And this is how screwy censorship can get in China. The song “Sitong Bridge,” where the incident occurred, has been removed from online music platforms. In China, maniacal censorship is nothing new. During the last communist party congress meeting, the authorities banned knife sales and ordered people not to open their windows.
PICTURE OF THE MAN BEHIND THE PROTEST CIRCULATED AS “BRIDGE WARRIOR”
Though Chinese authorities left no stone unturned to erase this incident from their citizens’ memories, that’s not what’s happening. People started showering praise on the man who carried out such a herculean task. Several social media accounts even identified the man and posted his picture before their accounts got suspended. But the image of the man was shared widely and even spread to western social media.
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Unsurprisingly, there is no official news about the well-being of the protester. Despite a clip of him dressed as a construction worker being arrested by the police, we could only pray for his welfare. He has no doubt become a hero or “a symbol of resistance” against the CCP’s oppression. It’s fair to say he would have given the CCP leaders sleepless nights ahead of such an important meeting. This incident is a beacon of hope as, despite everything, the CCP failed in crushing the will of resistance of its citizens. It is rightly said that one can confine one’s body but not his soul and mind, and the CCP will learn this in a hard way.