A rare protest against Chinese leader Xi Jinping took place in Beijing on Oct. 13, widely-circulated images and photos show, just days ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress.
Two white banners bore slogans, including a call for Xi’s ouster and an end to the draconian “zero-COVID” policy, according to numerous images and videos circulating on Twitter, which is blocked in China.
The banners unfurled on Sitong Bridge in Haidian district, a university district in the northwest of the capital city, according to images and clips taken from various angles.
Smoke could be seen emanating from the overpass, and a man could be heard chanting slogans with loudspeakers, according to footage from the scene.
Such an incident poses an embarrassment for Xi, who is expected to secure an unprecedented third five-year term in office in the upcoming party congress. Held every five years, the meeting is set to kick off on Oct. 16 in Beijing, during which the next round of top leadership will also be unveiled.
Dissenters and petitioners previously told The Epoch Times that since September, police have appeared on local streets, monitoring their homes day and night.
With just days left to the pivotal political meeting, it’s highly unusual for protests to pop up in the country, especially in the political center of Beijing, where a city-wide mass surveillance system has been installed since 2015. According to Comparitech, a UK-based cyber security website, approximately 7.9 million surveillance cameras watch the city 24 hours daily.
Photos online purport to show a rare protest in Beijing’s Haidian district just ahead of the 20th Party Congress.
Extraordinary given pre-Congress security + surveillance
Among the slogans: ‘Don’t want PCR tests, want to eat’
‘Don’t want a Cultural revolution, want reforms’ pic.twitter.com/9RwyDb36RM
— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) October 13, 2022
“Let us strike from schools and from work and remove the dictatorial traitor Xi Jinping,” one of the two banners read.
The other banner said: “No COVID tests, we want to eat. No lockdowns; we want freedom. No lies; we want dignity. No Cultural Revolution; we want reform. No leaders; we want votes. We don’t want to be slaves; we want to be citizens.”
The CCP has made it clear that it will remain committed to its “zero-COVID” policy, though frequent lockdowns and repeated mass testing have fueled widespread frustration in Chinese cities. Small-scale protests erupted in Shanghai and other Chinese cities earlier this year.
As of Oct. 10, at least 36 Chinese cities have been placed under some level of restrictions or lockdown, affecting around 196.9 million people, up from the previous week’s 179.7 million, according to an estimate by Japanese bank Nomura.
Beijing is testing its 21 million residents every three days, with people required to present a negative result on a PCR test taken within 72 hours to enter any public venue or take public transportation.
On Thursday evening, there was a noticeable police presence in the area, with several police cars and officers standing watch at the thoroughfare where the banners had been hung, according to Reuters. It added there were no traces of the banners or of fire.
A nearby resident told The Epoch Times that he shut the door immediately when he saw the protest. He declined to discuss details over the phone, saying that “the control has been tightened in recent days.”
Several locals said they’d heard of the protest but could not share it on WeChat, the country’s most popular messaging app.
A Beijing resident expressed support for the protest.
“People have rights to express their ideas, which was protected by the Constitution,” he told The Epoch Times on Thursday. “However, when people express their thoughts in public, no matter the means, they will be accused of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.’”
“Picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” is a frequent charge used by the CCP to silence critics.
On China’s heavily censored internet, search terms related to the protest yielded no results as of Thursday.
Additionally, a song called “Sitong Bridge,” the name of the Haidian bridge, by an artist called Biuya was censored on various Chinese music apps, according to Reuters.
Reuters, Hong Ning, and Xia Song contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times