Blank sheets of paper become a symbol of resistance in China’s protests

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Chinese protesters have turned to blank sheets of paper to express their anger over the Covid-19 restrictions in a rare and widespread sign of public dissent that has reached beyond social media to some of China’s streets and major universities.

Images and videos circulating online showed university students in cities like Nanjing and Beijing holding up blank sheets of paper in silent protest, a tactic used in part to evade censorship or arrest.

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China is sticking to its strict Covid-zero policy even as much of the world tries to co-exist with the coronavirus.

The latest wave of protests was sparked by an apartment fire that killed ten people on Thursday (24) in Urumqi, a far western city where some people were isolated for up to 100 days, fueling speculation that lockdown measures may have prevented the residents from fleeing.

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In Shanghai, a crowd that started to gather on Saturday night (26) to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of Urumqi held up blank sheets of paper, according to witnesses and videos.

A widely shared video purportedly from Saturday, which could not be independently verified, showed a lone woman on the steps of the China Communication University in the city of Nanjing with a piece of paper before an unidentified man entered the scene. and take it.

Other images showed dozens of other people then walking up the university steps with blank sheets of paper, lit against the night sky by their cellphone flashlights.

Later, a man can be seen berating the crowd for their protest. “One day you will pay for everything you did today,” he said in videos seen by Reuters. “The State will also have to pay the price for what it has done,” chanted people in the crowd.

Widespread protests are rare in China, where the space for dissent has been all but eliminated under President Xi Jinping, forcing citizens to vent on social media, where they play “cat and mouse” with the censors.

Similar sheets of paper can be seen in the hands of people gathered at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing to sing the Chinese national anthem on Sunday (27).

Protesters have been advised to bring a sheet of white paper to at least one planned demonstration, according to tips shared in chat groups seen by Reuters.

In Hong Kong in 2020, activists also held up blank sheets of paper in protest to avoid slogans banned under the city’s new national security law, imposed after massive and sometimes violent protests the previous year. Protesters in Moscow also used the strategy this year to protest Russia’s war with Ukraine.

A Beijing resident surnamed Wang, who joined his neighbors on Saturday in pressuring local authorities to release his apartment from lockdown, described his sadness upon hearing about “minor disasters” involving the Covid-zero policy.

Wang was referring to incidents in China that sparked outrage on social media, including a pregnant woman who miscarried after being refused entry to a Xian hospital in January, the deadly crash of a bus in Guizhou carrying quarantined people and a young boy. in Lanzhou who died of gas poisoning during confinement.

“All this could have happened to me or my wife,” he told Reuters.

Several Internet users showed solidarity by posting blank squares or photos of themselves holding blank sheets of paper on their WeChat or Weibo timelines. On Sunday morning, the hashtag “white paper exercise” was blocked on Weibo, prompting users to lament the censorship.

“If you are afraid of a blank sheet of paper, you are weak inside,” one Weibo user posted.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: CNN Brasil

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