Home USA News In Washington Square, dissidents support historic protests across China

In Washington Square, dissidents support historic protests across China


Hundreds of protesters defied the Chinese government’s tough policies to combat COVID-19 during a protest in Washington Square Park, joining a global wave of demonstrations.

The sign reads “不自由 毋宁死” which translates to “Give me freedom or give me death”.

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On Sunday, Nov. 27, hundreds of NYU students and local residents protested the Chinese government’s no-covid-19 policy in Washington Square Park, supporting protesters in China who have grown increasingly frustrated with month-long lockdowns. The protests in China, which have since spread around the world, were sparked after firefighters were allegedly delayed in arriving at the scene of a deadly apartment fire in Xinjiang province due to lockdown measures.

A hand puts a flower in the middle of three LED candles.  In the background is a sign that says
Some of the slogans are a tribute to the lone protester on Xitong Bridge who was arrested in Beijing in mid-October.

Sunday’s demonstration drew about 200 protesters, many of whom were Chinese themselves. A protest organizer, who asked to remain anonymous, said the rare display of dissent against the government goes beyond its handling of the pandemic.

“It’s all these years of inhumane treatment of people that have finally come to a breaking point,” they said. “I never thought we had a chance to rise up like this.”

China’s no-nonsense policy against COVID-19 has sparked outrage both domestically and internationally since its inception over his own strict closures and economic consequences. Under current restrictions, local governments are required to initiate lockdown procedures with even a small number of cases, forcing schools to close, small businesses to go bankrupt and daily life to a halt. The lockdown lasts until new infections are reported, which may be sometimes take months.

A line of candles laid out on the ground in Washington Square Park against a background of silent protesters.  Some protesters are holding a blank sheet of white paper.
The number of participants grew from the single digits to about 200, almost forming a wall of people in the middle of Washington Square Park.

At the protest, which began at 4:30 p.m., attendees formed a circle around rows of LED candles and flowers to commemorate the 10 victims of the Xinjiang apartment fire. The small group of participants gradually grew as the evening progressed. Some held blank pieces of paper that were distributed by the organizers, which became a practice was started by Chinese protesters in connection with the suppression of all forms of dissent in the country. One protester brought a loudspeaker to play the Chinese national anthem and protest songs, including “Do You Hear the People Singing?” People also sang along to “The International,” a song written during the international communist movement.

The words on the signs and banners arose from attempts by the Chinese to evade government censorship, including “yes”, “support” and “appreciation” on social media platforms. While most protesters were more subdued, others called out President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party leave altogether.

A pair of hands hold a blank sheet of white paper.  The man is wearing a white sweatshirt with purple
A blank sheet of A4 format has become a symbol of protests both in China and around the world.

“I think it’s very touching to see everyone stand together and stand for the same cause,” said one protester, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “White sheets are like a mirror. They are empowering because they allow us to project what we want to say but can’t say to it.”

For Chinese citizens living abroad, the protests provide an opportunity to support friends and family back home who may be in greater danger if they openly criticize the government. Many of those who took part in the protest in Washington Square Park were Chinese international students who are also afraid to speak out despite living outside the country. Arrests were made during these protestsand already protests without covid led to increased police surveillance and police brutality in various cities.

“We want to demonstrate our support, we want to show that we are here, we listen and understand what is happening,” said the organizer of the action. “We want to show them that we support them and that we have something to say too.”

Karma Moniz and Sandra Cai contributed reporting.

Contact Torrey Morales at [email protected]

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