‘WE WANT FREEDOM, NOT LOCKDOWNS’ – Chinese protesters push for freedoms, but fear a crackdown from government


As a rare, large Beijing street demonstration reached a climax, and emotions were running high, several protesters shouted the normally unspeakable – for China’s ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping to step down.

It was a scene repeated in various forms across the country over the weekend, according to social media posts and accounts from witnesses, as protesters fed-up with Xi’s zero-COVID pushed the boundaries by speaking for change in a country where space for dissent has narrowed dramatically under Xi’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Aware that police and cameras were watching, people sought to protect themselves during China’s largest demonstrations since 1989 by criticising a policy and its impact – but not the leader and the government behind it – at least not directly.

One word that cropped up time and again was “ziyou”, according to social media posts and witness accounts, which means freedom and can be interpreted as a demand for release from COVID curbs or a call for political freedom, and thus a challenge to the leadership