[guest post by Dana]
With a heartwrenching mix of courage and fear, protesters are risking life and limb for freedom in China:
It was clear that many protesters blame Mr. Xi for the extremely unpopular “zero-Covid” policy. A young Shanghai professional with the surname Zhang said that Mr. Xi’s norm-breaking third term, secured at last month’s party congress, spelled the end of China’s progress. “We all gave up our illusions,” he said.
The young protesters are most conflicted about the impact of their actions. They felt powerless about changing the system as long as Mr. Xi and the Communist Party are in power. They believe that many people in the public supported them because the unyielding Covid rules have violated what they see as baseline norms of Chinese society. Once the government relaxes the policy, they worry, the public’s support for protests would evaporate.
Even now, authorities appear to be ready to quash the protests:
In what appears to be the first official response – albeit veiled – to the protests, China’s domestic security chief vowed at a meeting Tuesday to “effectively maintain overall social stability.”
Without mentioning the demonstrations, Chen Wenqing urged law enforcement officials to “resolutely strike hard against infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces, as well as illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order,” the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Here is a comprehensive look at why it is nearly impossible for protesters to evade the authorities.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is being cautious with regard to a response to the protests:
Top US officials who have been closely monitoring the unrest in China have made two things clear in the past few days: that the Biden administration supports any people’s right to peacefully protest and that it simply does not see China’s so-called zero-Covid policy as a sound approach.
But administration officials have been careful not to step beyond the contours of those public comments, carefully stepping around broader questions about the US’s assessment of the situation or its potential future role in supporting the Chinese people’s cries for more freedom…
A senior US official emphasized to CNN that the White House is being careful not to overstate the nature of the protests, noting that while there have been some calls for Xi Jinping to step down, as of now, most of the protests in the country of over one billion people seem small, localized and aimed more at the narrow goals of ending the Covid lockdowns and securing better working conditions than a loftier push for democracy.
“We have to be very careful of not creating a distorted reality,” the official said.
I’ll leave you with an incredible example of the courage these young protesters are displaying:
When someone first chanted, “No more Communist Party,” the crowd laughed, according to Serena, a college student who is spending her gap year in Shanghai. “Everyone knew it was the redline,” she said.
Then it became increasingly charged. When someone yelled, “Xi Jinping, step down!” and “C.C.P., step down!” the shouts were the loudest, according to Serena and other protesters who were also there.