On 13th of October, the news of a banner unfurling against Xi Jinping at the Sitong Bridge of Haidian District in Beijing going viral on twitter took the internet by a storm. It is not every day that someone residing under the draconian rule of CCP would dare to put his life in danger in order to register dissent against the all-powerful Chinese premier. The slogan on the banner was a pro-democracy message that called for “reforms”, “dignity”, and “liberty” and denounced the need for a “cultural revolution”. The slogan also demands an end to the “slavery” that has perhaps become equivalent to being a Chinese citizen. The individual involved in this protest has already been arrested and put under custody.
The Chinese authority and propaganda machinery is expectedly dismissing this act of protest as a rogue incident of madness. This protest, however, is highly symptomatic of the frustration and discontent that is brewing within the Chinese population against a variety of issues including the paranoia displayed by the officials in implementing COVID related tests and restrictions. Following the incident, a lot of posts appeared on the Chinese social media site Weibo in support of the protest. The Chinese authorities soon sprang into action and banned a lot of keywords connected to the incident including “bridge”, “brave” and “warrior.” The population of China has in fact witnessed many such acts of oppression in the past few weeks.
Ahead of the 20th party congress, there has been news of political purging where the detractors of the Chinese premier Xi Jinping are being put in jail or given suspended death sentences, often on flimsy grounds. Recently, Sun Lijun, a former Chinese deputy policing minister has been jailed for life on charges of corruption and stock market manipulation. His death sentence commuted ahead of a Communist Party conference. In another instance, the same sentence was also granted to the former Chinese justice minister Fu Zhenghua, for “accepting bribes and bending the law for personal gain.” The relevance of the timings of these sentences is likely not lost on the detractors of Xi Jinping, who can clearly read the warning to Xi’s rivals and detractors within the highest echelons of the CCP.
Quite recently, dozens of people have also been reported to protest in the southern Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, after a snap lockdown was announced on account of rising COVID cases. In addition, protests with regard to unemployment and home mortgage payments have been posing as a problem for the Chinese premier. Unemployment is as high as 20% with about 15 million young people estimated to be jobless in China. Further, there have been reports of authorities in more than 100 Chinese cities grappling with protests staged by the angry homebuyers, who have not been given possession of their flats and homes.
It is quite important to Xi that he is seen as the most accepted Chinese leader now more than ever when he intends to get a third term as the premier. It is not helping his case that there are news of public protests coming from various corners of the country. There is clearly an unrest brewing in China and it is the premier’s excessive aggressiveness that is the root cause of the unrest. History has ample examples of entire nation states declining in quest of one man’s ambitions. Is China’s story going to be any different?