PITTSBURGH, Pa.—About three hundred students attended a candlelight rally at Carnegie Mellon University on Dec. 2 to mourn those who lost their lives in the recent Urumqi fire and support ongoing protests in China.
The rally was held in front of The Fence, a symbol of free student voice on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, to express five demands: “Allow public vigils, end brutal lockdowns, release protestors, protect human rights, and stop genocide.” The crowd shouted the demands, along with slogans including “Give me liberty or give me death” and “Free China.”
Twenty-four people, mostly Chinese students, volunteered to speak at the rally, which lasted about one and a half hours.
Following the tragic fire in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, many Chinese have taken to the streets to protest the regime’s zero-COVID policy. The Nov. 24 blaze is believed to have claimed at least 44 lives, with many blaming China’s harsh COVID lockdowns for the tragedy.
No Longer ‘Not My Business’
A Chinese political science major addressed vigil participants. As a child, she said, her parents warned her not to attend protests against the Chinese regime.
She initially stayed away from protests because she wanted to respect her parents. However, she was studying the issues on her own.
“I wanted to discuss political issues in a rational, scientific and ethical way. Whether it’s domestic or foreign reporting on domestic matters, my personal principle is that I don’t make any statements until I know the truth of the matter, and I don’t take sides. I want to see any side of the viewpoint clearly, do enough background research, and then I will participate in this discussion.
“But this time I’ve done a lot of background research, I’ve read a lot of articles, but things are still very sad,” she said tearfully.
In the past, she said, when there were protests against the Chinese communist regime, she told herself, “This is not my business; I just need to study hard and work harder.”
Her attitude has changed. “If I keep this up, I won’t even be able to go home! If this [lockdown] continues, my mom told me, ‘Don’t come back; we can’t survive.’ Then what’s the point of trying so hard for my studying?”
She finished her speech in tears as the crowd applauded.
Chinese Students: What CCP tells us is Just lies
A male Chinese undergraduate said he had just escaped China three months ago and had been experiencing the zero-COVID lockdown policy in Shanghai this year.
“The CCP has been telling us a lot of lies, ever since we were kindergarten kids,” he said.
“They told us they would promote national minorities, but the truth is, they’re persecuting minorities within the nation. And they told us they would serve the people, but they’re just ignoring our needs. Now in the COVID pandemic, they tell us that the lockdown policies are for everyone’s own good. But these innocent people, they’re dying because of the COVID measures.”
Like many participants, the student asked not to be named. As someone who experienced the Shanghai lockdown, he drew listeners’ attention to other casualties: “Twenty-seven people who died in the Guizhou bus accident, and pregnant women, and patients with kidney failures.”
“What they’re telling us is just lies,” he said.
Chinese-American Student: ‘Proud to Be Here Today’
A second-generation Chinese-American student shared her internal struggle as she tried to decide whether to come to the rally.
“I love China; I love my country. I love the culture and the landscape. It’s somewhere that I call home. But I think a lot of Chinese-Americans like me also have a sense of shame associated with it, especially being here in America. I felt shame that my beloved country is under such an oppressive regime and that the people didn’t seem to be doing anything about it.”
She said she never thought she would see so many people protesting—in cities across China and around the world.
She said the strong non-Chinese presence at the vigil “warms my heart.”
“I’m proud to be here today, to stand here alongside all of you guys,” she said. “There is hope for the future.”
‘What They Fear Most’
Shakir, of Uyghur heritage, also addressed the crowd. The Nov. 24 fire was just a few bus stops from his home in Urumqi. Holding a sign that read “Urumqi,” he denounced the CCP’s inhumane treatment of Uyghurs.
“Officially, 10 people died, but we all know that 44 people died,” Shakir said. “The communist party did not treat them as human beings, locked them up in buildings, and did not even include them in the communist party’s death records after they died.”
The fire ended lives that had already been miserable for months, he said, noting that the children who perished in the tragedy “just ate radishes for a month before they died.”
Shakir thanked those who came out to show support: “Because you stood here, the communist party will fall. Because you stood here, no one will be arrested for freedom in the future. Because you stood here, no one will die in the future because they could not escape [the] fire; because you stood here, your children will not be arrested in the future for holding up white papers.”
A united front for freedom is the CCP’s worst fear, Shakir said. “We must say no to them; what they fear most is that we the people say no to them.”
Student Organizer: ‘We Shouldn’t Be Afraid’
University of Pittsburgh senior Haoxuan Huang helped organize the vigil. Huang told The Epoch Times he thought the event was a success. He expressed pride that Chinese students are awakening to the Chinese communist threat and speaking out.
“I think this time the international Chinese students are admirable when they can stand out bravely without worrying, putting their own safety aside.”
Unlike some students who wore masks or covered their faces, Huang wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “END CCP.”
“I don’t think the surveillance by the CCP is that scary,” Huang said.
There are many rallies in the United States, each rally with hundreds or thousands of people. And there are protests across China right now. “The CCP can’t handle it.”
“So I think we shouldn’t be afraid of our government; the government should be afraid of us,” Huang said.
Huang said until last Friday, his parents in Chongqing, in southwestern China, had been in lockdown for three weeks.
However, he said that even in the United States, the CCP attempts to stifle free speech.
Early last Friday morning, students at Carnegie Mellon painted The Fence—the school’s unofficial bulletin board—with slogans such as “End brutal lockdown,” “Release protestors,” and “Stop the genocide.”
The last student left the site around 2:30 a.m. When a student came back to retrieve a heater less than an hour later, the slogans had been vandalized: painted over with derogatory and insulting slurs.
From The Epoch Times