Chinese students stage rare protests ahead of Tiananmen anniversary


Chinese students staged rare COVID protests ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, DW News reports. Hundreds of students in Beijing have called for freedom of movement amid concerns over tightening COVID restrictions. Videos circulated online showing students tearing down a metal wall.

Credit: RFA

Teng Biao, a US-based Chinese human rights lawyer, said university students in China “have played an important role in many democratic movements in the country,” he told DW. “But since Xi Jinping came to power, Beijing has increased its control over civil society, the internet, and even universities.”

Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese security state has intensified efforts to prevent dissent before it can take root, writes Washington Post correspondent Christian Shepherd:

Cracks in surveillance that allowed previous generations of activists to gain traction are increasingly being filled in by new campaigns urging police vigilance against any sign of emerging threats to national security and social stability….. Rights lawyers now struggle to take on sensitive cases because of an increasingly delicate system of control that has been built in recent years, according to Mina Huang, a Chinese human rights attorney. She also worries that the normalization of data monitoring during the pandemic will worsen the situation.

“The work done by [#MeToo activists] Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing was very meaningful. It gave young people a space to become aware of this era and our situation,” she said. “The charges against them are typical of the suppression of young activists. The authorities are afraid the younger generation will become active.”

Democracy is unlikely to come to China unless a number of circumstances fall into place at just the right time under the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), exiled dissidents told RFA ahead of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led democracy movement in China and the founder of the Dialogue China think-tank, warned that people shouldn’t harbor illusions about deliberate political reform under the CCP. A recipient of the National Endowment for Democracy’s 1998 Democracy Award, Wang was arrested in June 1993, having been marked number one on the government’s “most wanted” list following the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

“Perhaps if there is a huge crisis and challenge [facing China], generating a certain level of internal disagreement, and the government misjudges and makes the wrong response are wrong, then maybe history will turn,” he said. “Without the combination of these factors, I advise everyone to drop any remaining illusions they hold about the CCP,” he added.

The NED “stands in solidarity with those forced into exile yet who continue to face intimidation, threats, and coercion from brazen CCP operatives outside of China,” NED President and CEO Damon Wilson said today. “We reaffirm our commitment to our many partners across the region and the new generations and communities who carry on the spirit of the Tiananmen Democracy Movement against tremendous odds in pursuit of a free, open, and democratic China.”

Recent events in China will likely be “consequential” for the regime, Gerard Baker writes for The Times. As a new report by the Rhodium Group, an always valuable source of analysis on modern China, puts it: “2022 represents a watershed in questioning long-held perceptions of China’s technocratic competence and capacity.” Over a longer horizon, China’s growth outlook is constrained by demographics, falling productivity, and more significantly, the failed structural reforms of the past decade, as Rhodium’s Dan Rosen highlighted in detail in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs.

New and crucial phase

Exiled dissident and political commentator Wang Juntao said CCP leader Xi Jinping’s insistence on a zero-COVID policy in response to the pandemic could prove to be just such a crisis, however, RFA adds.

“Now that the enforcement methods used to implement zero-COVID disease control and prevention measures have brought disaster to the people, more and more people agree that Xi Jinping is going against the opinions of experts from all over the world, and yet there is no way to make him correct his course,” Wang Juntao said.

The struggle for freedom in China has reached a new and crucial phase, as the CCP escalates campaigns of repression and persecution of its own citizens, both at home and abroad, the NED suggests. The world has witnessed the CCP’s genocide targeting the Uyghur people, their language, and their culture. Thanks to courageous activists and journalists, the world is well informed about the cradle-to-grave oppression of Tibetans, the devastating crackdown on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and the relentless attacks against human rights defenders and dissidents across China.


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