Emerging voices from choked society

A Spring bringing uprisings

In the Spring of 1989, the year of the turning point in political history with the “Revolutions of 1989” sweeping the Eastern Bloc, starting in Poland and Hungary, young people in China came out to voice their displeasure of the turn of events.

China came to hear about youngsters, mainly university students, having a growing sentiment for political and economic reform. Though at that time we in the West could already see how china had changed its path and started to follow the capitalist countries. We could nearly say China was going to become a hyper-capitalist country. More and more it looked like the Chines government had no eye for the ordinary people but gave in to the big bosses of big companies and those who managed to gain a lot of money. Priorities were made to create a superpower on economic level, no matter what impact or what sacrifices were demanded from the ordinary citizens.

The country had experienced a decade of remarkable economic growth and it gave the impression there was some more liberty to the people than in the previous decades. Many chines were also allowed to go abroad where they could also see how the Europeans had created a welfare state.  Being exposed to foreign ideas and standards of living they brought several ideas to their home country and tried also to implement some ideas in their culture. Although the economic advances in China had brought new prosperity to many citizens, it was accompanied by price inflation and opportunities for corruption by government officials. Many disgusting practices of certain Chinese who held higher positions came to light and stung the eyes of ordinary people.

National Emblem of ChinaSince the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded as both a political party and a revolutionary movement in 1921 by revolutionaries such as Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu, has been in sole control of that country’s government.

Free-market economic reforms

When one of the proteges of Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang was succeeded by Jiang Zemin in 1989 as general secretary of the CCP the leaders of the CCP hoped to have a compromise choice combining a commitment to continued free-market economic reforms with a determination to preserve the CCP’s monopoly on political power. It was for all clear they should not give any power away.

Normally in a nation where everybody should be on equal terms, the reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy that benefited some people but seriously disadvantaged others. Furthermore were there questions on the matter of regulating the country. The one-party political system faced a challenge to its legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, corruption, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. {Brook 1998, p. 216.}

Calling for more individual rights and freedom

But those student-led demonstrations calling for more individual rights and freedoms in late 1986 and early 1987 were a thorn in the CCP’s side. They caused hard-liners in the government and Chinese Communist Party to suppress what they termed “bourgeois liberalism.” They were convinced that the freedoms previously given and the view of Europe allowed, had spoiled the young people to such an extent that they no longer had a sober view for what was best for the community, but were rather concerned with their own personal gain.

Události na náměstí Tian an men, Čína 1989, foto Jiří Tondl.jpg

People protesting near the Monument to the People’s Heroes

When pro-reform CCP general secretary Hu Yaobang (Hu Yao-pang) died in April 1989 his death sparked a series of demonstrations led by students and others (the Tiananmen Square incident) that culminated on the night of June 3–4 with the forceful suppression of demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and elsewhere in the country.

Shortly after the arrival of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in mid-May, a demonstration in Tiananmen Square drew some one million participants and was widely broadcast overseas. Moderates, such as Zhao Ziyang (Hu Yaobang’s successor as party general secretary), advocated negotiating with the demonstrators and offering concessions. But those who felt that one should not pander to the pampered students at all, found more supporters to take stricter action against the protesters, who were therefore dealt with harshly. As the protests spread to other cities and threatened the central authority, the government imposed martial law and in early June forcibly suppressed the demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Dissolution of Soviet states not bringing communist regime in danger

Unlike what happened in Europe with the opening of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet communist regime, the Chinese communist regime turned out to be much stronger and could suppress the population. Party members who listened to the students’ grievances were also dealt with harshly and given house arrest. Though Zhao could retain his party membership, he was formally dismissed from his top party and government posts and got replaced as general secretary by Jiang Zemin.

One could say that in 1989 revolutions against communist governments in Eastern Europe mainly succeeded, but it did not succeed in China, where now more than 30 years later again students are stepping forwards to raise their voices. But this time, after a fire in a tower flat, more adults are joining them.

In previous years, the Chinese government has made every effort to keep the events of the Tiananmen Square battlefield quiet and out of the people’s memory.

China’s zero-Covid policy in 2022

A worker wearing protective equipment stands inside a temporary Covid-19 testing laboratory in northern China’s Tianjin Municipality, Tuesday, January 11, 2022

At the beginning of this year China’s northern Tianjin province launched a major emergency response to ensure residents had adequate daily supplies as it tackled a new wave of coronavirus.

Officials had mobilised all major wholesale suppliers, supermarkets and shops to ensure they met the demand for meat, eggs and vegetables. Stocks had increased as the municipality, which has a population of 13.8 million, launches measures to contain the spread of the omicron variant.

Tianjin city — which lies 80 miles south-east of the capital Beijing — moved swiftly after 20 people tested positive for Covid-19 Friday January 7. On Tuesday 11 this had increased to 33.

Authorities initiated a city-wide nucleic acid testing programme, which had proven effective in containing the spread of coronavirus in Xi’an in the central Shaanxi sheng (province).

It enabled health officials there to identify the sources and implement lockdowns and centralised quarantines for those infected.

Western media had reported food shortages in Tianjin, but authorities said that there was adequate supply after stocks were briefly depleted following the panic buying of pork, eggs and other goods.

The province was the latest to be hit by a Covid-19 outbreak, the north-eastern Shaanxi Province reporting nearly 2,000 cases since December and with other smaller outbreaks in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Henan.

Isolation

Thanks to the Beijing Winter Olympics, you’ve probably heard a lot about China in the  weeks around 2021-22. But there’s a side of China which many probably have not seen before. For years it was difficult for gay people to express themselves in China. Many faced hardships because of who they are or who they love. Isolation is one of the worst enemies of queer people struggling with their identities. Now they could have it worse, because some thought they were spreaders of the disease. Also when citizens were placed in lockdown they could not go to visit eachother.

China’s zero-Covid policy — under fire from a number of Western countries — has seen it record just 67 deaths since January 2021, and fewer than 5,000 since the outbreak began.

Whilst Coronavirus restrictions were beginning to be eased in many Western countries,  China remained committed to its strict ‘zero-Covid’ policies. But that policy started to give a strain on the country.

On the 12th of March China‘s new COVID-19 cases had more than doubled, compared to the previous day as the so-called stealth Omicron variant tests the nation’s zero-tolerance coronavirus policy and fueled a new outbreak. The National Health Commission reported 3,507 new locally spread cases over 24 hours, up from 1,337 the previous day but still far lower than caseloads in many other countries. China on Monday March 14 locked down all 24 million residents of northeastern Jilin province in the country’s first such province-wide lockdown since Wuhan and Hubei in January 2020, early in the pandemic. Along the coast of the South China Sea and immediately north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen city, which has a population of 17.5 million, started a week-long lockdown on Monday, with all public transport and non-essential businesses shut down.

You have to imagine it, that nobody around you can leave the house, and that food is provided at your doorstep by teams in white suits. The only contact with other people being by phone and computer. No real-life contact with other people, than those in the building. And couples of the same sex had now difficulties having food for two and could be unmasked as homosexuals in their premises, bringing them in danger of being locked up as perverted sick creatures.

People expressing anger over the lockdown

On the 5th of April China extended Shanghai‘s coronavirus lockdown to cover the financial hub’s entire population of 26 million after city-wide testing found daily new cases surging to more than 13,000. The broadening restrictions came as residents of China‘s largest city were already expressing anger over the lockdown. Outside experts warned the campaign’s economic cost would be huge. China had brought in at least 38,000 personnel from other regions in what state media called the country’s biggest medical operation since the Wuhan shutdown in early 2020. Thousands of Shanghai residents who had tested positive were been confined to “central quarantine” facilities whether they were symptomatic or not, with children sometimes separated from their parents. We could see pictures on televisions with big dormitories full of children separated from their parents for days and weeks.

Airports, companies and paralysis of economic development

In 2021 seven of the top 10 busiest airports in the world were in China, but because of the lockdowns and the restrictions on traveling it mostly became very quiet at Chinese airports and railway stations.

At the beginning of this year Atlanta could reclaim its title as the busiest airport in the world, after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport dropped one spot last year.
The world’s 10 busiest airports accommodated 463 million passengers in 2021, a 52 percent increase over 2020 but still 29 percent below pre-pandemic levels in 2019. In 2021, eight of the top 10 passenger airports were in the United States.

Each time there was another hotbed of Covid, the Chinese government took such harsh measures that social but also economic life came to a standstill. No one could go to work and businesses simply shut down for days, not to say weeks. This brought the production of goods to a halt in many cities, which also affected the export of products to the West.

Ongoing supply-chain clogs and China coronavirus restrictions costed Tesla a month of production at its Shanghai factory.

“Shanghai is coming back with a vengeance,”

Elon Musk said. He said Tesla would produce more than 1.5 million vehicles this year, 60 percent more than last year.

Though all the restrictions and factories shut down for some time, China has been making a concerted effort to strike new trade and security deals with Pacific island nations.

Workers in protective suits stand at a closed residential area during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 23, 2022 (Credit: Aly Song/Reuters)In July 2022, after two-and-a-half years of the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have lifted restrictions – but cases were once again on the rise. As the World Health Organisation warned that the pandemic was “nowhere near over”, and scientists analysed how to tackle the latest variants, governments looked for measures that could be sufficient to contain the disease without unduly burdening the population.

Mr.Jiang Zemin, the Chinese official, a wily and garrulous politician, who following the forceful suppression of demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere in 1989, and had become general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP; 1989–2002) afterwards guiding China into Global Market, died at the end of November, at 96.

Broader demands

At the end of November protests against Covid restrictions evolved into broader demands.

The protests have been fueled by anger over an apartment building fire in the capital city of the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, northwestern China. Many attributed the tragedy at Urumqi, that killed 10 people, to Covid restrictions that confined people to their homes, a suspicion that officials have denied.

At the time of the corona measures in Belgium and the Netherlands there were many protesters making a lot of amok makers who ranted loudly and who raged hard, destroying a lot of private and state property to enforce their views. Those anti-vaxxers probably had no idea how free they still were, especially compared to the Chinese.

In China, the protesters’ calls for an end to lockdowns have morphed into demands for official accountability and even for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to step down.

In Shanghai on Sunday, protesters had gathered at Urumqi Road, named after the city, when the man stepped onto the road.

“I’m holding flowers — is that a crime?”

the man asked loudly, as dozens of police officers drew closer. The crowd responded:

“No!”

Corona measures and a choice that the people are now unwilling to accept

Since the Corona outbreak and its choice to limit the spread, the CCP has made a choice that the people are now unwilling to accept. The children of those who do remember the 1989 uprising could talk to their relatives about it during the past few months, but could also give them advice on how to be careful not to externalise their protest.

The protests that erupted across China’s streets and campuses this past weekend were among the broadest and boldest challenges to China’s leadership since the student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

To avoid the police having a reason to arrest them for unauthorised protest, many protesters now wore a blank white sheet, such that they could not be charged for expressing certain things. But on that front too, the government intervened and banned the sale of A4 paper the day before yesterday.

China has never abandoned its dream of eliminating Covid, and thought that only serious measures could eliminate the spreading of the disease.

Zero-Covid might briefly have seemed clever, such as at New Year 2021 when many western countries were trying and failing to control Covid with belated lockdowns but the Chinese were allowed to celebrate the festival in near-normal fashion. But that faded quickly once the West became vaccinated and the inevitable outbreaks continued to occur in China. It didn’t help that China’s vaccines were significantly inferior to those developed in the West.

Also, according to the citizens, the measures were far too severe, especially with the unauthorised encroachments of many citizens, some of whom did not even have corona at all, but were just unlucky enough to live near infected people.

Growing protests

Protesters march towards a local government building

Protesters marching towards the local government building following the Ürümqi fire in a residential high-rise, on 24 November 2022

Last week the protests started to grow. More people daring to step out of their barricaded apartment blocs. As more protesters and police officers gathered on the streets, many wondered what would happen next, some police officers compassionate to those who were (unjustly) incarcerated, whilst others were afraid they would become infected with that horrible virus.

 “You could feel the intensity in the air,”

said one protester in Shanghai, who asked to be identified only by the surname Liu for fear of official reprisals. This time many of the protesters took pictures of the situation and placed it on social media or sent it to friends abroad, before the government could closedown the internet.

At a university in the eastern port city on the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang), Nanjing, twice serving as the seat of revolutionary government, protesters turned their cellphone flashlights on and raised the devices into the air in a tribute to the victims of the Urumqi fire.

Whilst in the world’s most populous national capital city, with over 21 million residents, Beijing‘ residents gathered at the banks of the Liangma River chanting slogans popularised by a lone protester who had boldly denounced China’s leader last month. The man had displayed banners on Sitong Bridge in the city’s north, days ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at which CCP general secretary Xi cemented a new term in power.

A slogan on one of the banners referred to the Cultural Revolution, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, launched by the principal Chinese Marxist theorist, soldier, and Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) during his last decade in power (1966–76) to renew the spirit of the Chinese Revolution. It was a time of fanaticism and radicalism that demonstrated the risks of autocratic rule, not wanting China to develop along the lines of the Soviet model.

The protesters in Shanghai also turned a Communist Party slogan popularised by Mao Zedong, “Serve the people,” into a pointed reminder to the police of who they were meant to protect.

It can be said that it has been unseen, so many people even shouting not only to have Xi step down but also to get rid of the CCP. Today as in Mao’s time China is again facing an economic depression, partly caused by overproduction and by certain factories not being able to produce enough products for export to Europe and the U.S.A., but also by having lots of workers not able to go to work because of their restriction to go to other places.  But at the same time lots of factory workers were locked in the company where they worked and not allowed to leave there for days because of the corona lockdown. One can imagine how frustrated those people must have been that they could not go home or to their families, but were locked up like animals in a cage, with insufficient food and water supply. Because of the inability to carry out their operations, many small traders also ran into problems.

Some cases became very absurd, people being in places, suddenly feeling trapped not being allowed to get out. This happened a.o. with Shanghai Disney for a second time, which includes Disneyland and its surrounding shopping districts, when it announced the closure of the park shortly after 11:30 a.m. local time, citing compliance with COVID-19 regulations, the park barring people from exiting until they could provide a negative COVID-19 test. Similarly, there was a case in Shanghai in August, when a lockdown was imposed at an IKEA branch, sending the shoppers scrambling for the exit to avoid being locked inside.

China’s staunch commitment to its zero-COVID policy in order to eradicate any outbreak of the disease has led to millions of residents being confined to their homes and other locations. Long lockdowns in large cities like Shanghai have made the policy increasingly unpopular with Chinese residents. {Visitors trapped inside Shanghai Disney resort after lockdown imposed}

Eventually, those restrictions had to result in protests.

Foreign anti-Chinese forces and patriots

The Chinese government actually wants to pin the current protests on incitement from the West, which, according to the CCP, wants to undermine China. When in Beijing a man with a megaphone warned a crowd that there were

“foreign anti-Chinese forces in our midst,”

protesters erupted with a series of clever retorts.

“We are all patriots,”

one replies.

“By foreign forces, are you referring to Marx and Engels?”

another asked, referring to the Communist Party’s own roots in the ideas of the two German philosophers.

In September, a bus headed to quarantine in the province of Guizhou crashed and killed 27 people, fueling nationwide anger over China’s zero-Covid policy, and now people dared to ask

“Was the Guizhou bus flipped over by foreign forces too?”

The population is now all too aware that the CCP is all too easily willing to blame the West for things going wrong in the country, because of their own fault. For the government to claim that these protesters were allegedly summoned by Western powers is a bridge too far for them, as they themselves want change out of love for their homeland and for their own people.

“Were we all called here by foreign forces?”

one man asks the crowd.

“No!”

they answer in unison

In a remarkable display of dissent coupled with patriotism, protesters in Shanghai chanted

“Arise, arise!”

a line from

“March of the Volunteers,”

National anthem of ROC score.gif

National Anthem of the Republic of China

the Chinese national anthem once used to galvanise Chinese against Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese war.

For years, the party assumed that the expression of patriotism should also be an acknowledgement that people loved the CCP.
Now that they have been curtailed by the party for several years to travel, interact with each other in all circumstances, move freely around the country as well as express themselves freely, they are questioning their choice or their acceptance of the leading group of the party apparatus.

If the party does not want to comply this time and suppress the protests as it did in 1989, there is a great danger that this time the people will not allow themselves to be done at all and will be strong enough to go into full resistance. Then China will be looking squarely at a new revolution.

+

Preceding

The unseen enemy

CoViD-19 Curation

Coronavirus on March 11 declared a global pandemic on March 31 affecting more than 177 countries

Remembering what happened in the previous influenza pandemic

Staying at home saves lives

Unlikely silence

Keeping healthy whilst not going to far away from home

No time yet to relax the CoViD-19 restriction measures

Fast-rising energy prices attract China to capitalise on them

How will China ease policy in response to the power cuts and Evergrande?

The New Imperialist Structure

European Council meeting of 20 – 21 October 2022

++

Additional reading

  1. Violent riots against Corona-measures
  2. Demonstrators once again on the streets to oppose all corona measures
  3. Federal PM condemns Sunday’s violence on the streets of Brussels
  4. New coronavirus measures having come into force
  5. Looking at 2021 in a nutshell
  6. The first week of February 2022
  7. A pandemic, Inflation and Hyperinflation
  8. Omicron variant probably the most significant threat since the start of the pandemic
  9. The first week of March 2022 looked at by the Guardian
  10. 2022 March 21-31 according to the Week
  11. Stories the Week brought to you from 2022 June 02 – June 08
  12. Asia in review for the first half of September
  13. Danny Boyle looking at The Telegraph’s front page for 2022/10/17
  14. The Telegraph’s Frontpage in the morning of 2022/11/03
  15. The Telegraph Frontpage for Friday 2022 November 25
  16. The Telegraph Frontpage for 2022 November 28
  17. The Telegraph Frontpage for 2022 November 29

+++

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  8. China puts 13 million residents of Xi’an in lockdown ahead of Games
  9. Chinese anti-virus lockdowns add to concerns over economy
  10. China locks down southern city as omicron variant surges
  11. China battles multiple COVID-19 outbreaks, driven by ‘stealth omicron’ variant
  12. China locks down millions more as Covid spreads.
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  24. Face masks obligation in Spanish public transport is almost over
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  26. Empty Beijing streets as COVID cases hit record
  27. Huge Protests Erupt in China’s Xinjiang Over Strict Zero-COVID Curbs
  28. China Covid: Chinese Protesters Sought Out By Police
  29. COVID protests escalate in China’s Guangzhou
  30. Apple supplier Foxconn quadruples bonuses for workers affected by the China COVID lockdown
  31. Big blow to Apple! China completely shut down world’s iPhones production hub – Here’s why
  32. China’s Xinjiang loosens some ‘zero-COVID’ restrictions after lockdown protests
  33. ‘Xi step down’ – protests erupt in China over harsh Covid curbs
  34. Visitors trapped inside Shanghai Disney resort after lockdown imposed
  35. Covid lockdowns spark violent protests in China’s Guangzhou city
  36. Big blow to Apple! China completely shut down world’s iPhones production hub – Here’s why
  37. “End The Lockdown” Slogans In China’s Xinjiang After Deadly Apartment Fire
  38. China Reports Another Daily Record Of Covid Cases As Protests Intensify
  39. Xi’s China Cracks Down As Deadly Fire Sparks Protests Against Covid Curbs
  40. China’s government doubles down on zero-COVID as anger grows

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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3 Responses to Emerging voices from choked society

  1. Pingback: The Telegraph Frontpage for 2022 November 30 – Some View on the World

  2. Guestspeaker says:

    Sherelle Jacobs writes:

    Whatever Xi does next, his credibility is damaged, possibly beyond repair. As police struggle to bring an end to widespread protests, from Wuhan to Beijing, he may be tempted to act decisively with a Tiananmen-style showdown. And yet Xi must know that he will struggle to keep state atrocities under wraps in an age of social media, however well his regime has mastered the techniques of online censorship. He must also know that killing thousands of protesters in the streets would blow up the CCP’s three-decade effort to wipe the chilling images of students facing down tanks in 1989 from world memory.

    But President Xi surely cannot hope to survive as leader should he give in to the protesters, either. If he admits that the CCP has lost the argument on Zero Covid, it will be a geopolitical humiliation – a generational setback to his attempt to rebrand China’s totalitarian state as a competent, far-sighted alternative to the democratic world.

    Like

  3. Guestspeaker says:

    Ross Clark comments

    It takes a lot to persuade the Chinese to riot — there is too much too lose, too little support. Yet Guangzhou this week has seen crowds take to the streets, overturning cars, throwing objects at the police and chanting ‘no more testing’.     

    At the peak of Covid in Britain, Professor Neil Fergusson and a few other scientists announced themselves to be impressed at how the British public had accepted serious restrictions on their freedoms — far more easily than they could have imagined. Briefly, it seemed as if the whole world was going Chinese — that authoritarianism was winning over freedom, and over freedom of speech in particular. But with China’s population sapped by a zero-Covid policy which is well into its third year, the tables have turned. Authoritarian public health policies have not merely proved ineffective, the Chinese people are responding with rare seen mass defiance.

    Like

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