a rare protest against Chinese leader Xi Jinping His policies ended quickly in Beijing on Thursday, just days before he was set to secure a third term in power at an important meeting of the ruling Communist Party.
Pictures circulated on Twitter on Thursday afternoon show two banners hung on an overpass of a major road in northwest China’s capital, protesting against Xi’s tough policy and authoritarian rule.
Say no to Covid testing, yes to food. No to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity. No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to the great leader, yes to voting. One of the signs says: ‘Don’t be a slave, be a citizen’.
The other says: “Strike and remove the dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping.”
Pictures and videos also show plumes of smoke rising from the bridge, and an audio recording of protest slogans being played over loudspeakers.
CNN can’t independently verify the images and footage, but it has geotag them to the Sitong Bridge, an overpass on Beijing’s Third Ring Road in Haidian District.
When CNN reached the Sitong Bridge at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, no protesters or signs could be seen. However, a large number of security men were on the bridge and in the vicinity. Security personnel were also spotted patrolling every overpass that CNN crosses on the C-Ring Road.
Chinese authorities have not yet commented on the incident. CNN has reached out to Beijing police for comment.
The protest led to an increase in strict Internet censorship in China.
Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, immediately censored search results for “Sitong Bridge,” the site of the protests. Not long ago, keywords including “Beijing,” “Haidian,” “warrior,” “courageous man,” and even “courage.”
Several accounts have been banned on Weibo and WeChat, the super-essential app for daily life in China, after commenting or hinting at the protest.
However, many spoke out to express their support and horror. Some shared the Chinese pop song “Lonely Warrior” in a veiled reference to the protester, who some called a “hero,” while others vowed never to forget him, posting under the hashtag: “I saw it.”
One commenter said, “Thank you for letting me still see hope in this land.”
“The person disappeared, the name of the site disappeared, so many words disappeared. But there are so many Chinese characters, so many eyes. Can you censor all of us?” said another.
Public protest against the top leadership is extremely rare in China, especially in the run-up to important political meetings, when the authorities have turned Beijing into a bulwark to maintain security and stability. Held twice a decade, the National Congress of the Communist Party is the most important event in the Chinese political calendar.
In the Twentieth Party Congress Starting Sunday, Xi is widely expected to break the latest standards and extend his rule for another term, potentially paving the way for a life sentence.
The Chinese president, China’s most powerful authoritarian leader in decades, has launched a sweeping crackdown to crush dissent, both within the party and in the broader society.
His strict no-Covid-19 policy has only fueled public frustration, as tiered shutdowns have upended lives and wreaked havoc on the economy.
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