China’s Blank Paper Protests

Tyler Leu, Staff Writer

On November 24, 2022, a fire broke out in an apartment complex located in the city of Ürümqi, China. The fire resulted in the deaths of ten people, along with an additional nine people who were injured. The fires began to cause Chinese people to question China’s internationally infamous Zero-Covid Policy, in which the Chinese government has been seen even chaining residents in their apartments and homes to prevent them from leaving. This policy has been implemented for years now, as we are now in the third year of Covid. The early roots of this policy can be seen in Wuhan, China, where Covid was originally first discovered, in which the government essentially locked the whole city off from the rest of the world. People, residents and tourists alike, were unallowed to enter or leave the city. A news story in 2020 details the story of a home-owner in Wuhan who had left her home for the New Year. It was supposed to be a day trip, however, she was unable to return. When she finally was able to get a friend to check up on her home, her two cats were both found dead due to dehydration and starvation. These horror stories were not uncommon in Wuhan.

As the times moved into 2022, Shanghai was abruptly locked down. This is where videos and images surfaced in which police officers were chaining residents into their apartments and homes. A video by the South China Morning Post shows a man who had been in the process of renovating his apartment. When the lockdown started, he was stuck inside of the place for more than fifty days with only a sofa, a desk, and a chair as his furniture. Along with those items, he had his cat to keep him company. It was difficult for him to obtain the necessary products to survive, but he did manage.

In more recent times, more discontent with the Zero-Covid Policy has been observed. In September, a bus taking residents to a quarantine facility in Guizhou Province crashed, resulting in the deaths of twenty-seven. This caused public dissatisfaction. In Shenzhen City, due to the aforementioned deranged quarantine expectations, protests broke out. These would certainly not be the last protests, as during the Communist Party National Congress, Beijing protesters hung banners on overpasses that signified a wish for the removal of the communist dictatorship and the harsh Covid policy.

The next event was the aforementioned fire in Ürümqi, which caused the blank paper protests.

Videos surfaced from within China that showed people taking to the streets in many cities with blank paper. Paper became the symbol as it represents censorship, but the people are still powerful despite it. For example, if things against the Chinese government are mentioned not only on public social media but also in private messages, it is completely removed. The system will not let it be sent.

The protests range from only being against the strict Covid policies, to even being against the entire communist government and Xi Jinping. Protesters in Shanghai chanted, “We don’t want lies, we want dignity. We don’t want a cultural revolution, we want reform. We don’t want a leader, we want votes. Don’t be a slave, be a citizen.” However, these protesters were obviously not allowed to keep protesting. Due to China’s strict control over how people view the government, they forced videos of protests to be deleted and wiped from social media, along with beating and imprisoning many protesters. The fact, on the contrary, that people in China are even standing up for their rights is extremely positive. Because some people are stepping out against the government, more might also.

Recently, the Zero-Covid Policy has been lifted in China. Citizens of neighboring countries worry that the abrupt lifting of the policies may cause Covid to spread exponentially more than it had in the past. China limiting exposure and then releasing everyone at once will have terrible consequences. However, as is apparent from the previous offenses of the Chinese Government, they do not overly care about their people and their wellbeing. It can be speculated that the reason that China lifted their policy so abruptly is to try to show the people that they are uneducated and should just listen to the government when millions of people throughout the country perish from Covid. This is extremely dangerous.

Colin Krawczak, Grade 8, concurs. “It is saddening that the government cares more about themselves and their military arsenal than the wellbeing of their people. The Chinese (people) should be cautious with protesting.”