China Scrubs Internet of Hashtag 'I Saw It' After Protest

Protester called for overthrow of regime, end to 'zero COVID' policies
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2022 9:07 AM CDT

Beijing residents saw an incredibly rare sight on a bridge over a busy intersection Thursday—an anti-Xi Jinping protest, with banners calling for the overthrow of the Chinese leader and an end to the country's harsh "zero COVID" policies. A lone protester, who was quickly surrounded by police officers, was seen shouting slogans through a megaphone, the BBC reports. The protester, who was dressed as a construction worker, also set what appeared to be car tires on fire. "We want food, not PCR tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns. We want respect, not lies. We want reform, not a Cultural Revolution," one banner said, per the Guardian. Another banner called for the overthrow of Xi and his Communist Party regime.

Authorities quickly removed evidence of the protest and scrubbed all mentions of it from internet sites behind the "Great Firewall," with posts using hashtags "Beijing," "bridge," or "Haidian"—the district where the protest took place—pulled from the Weibo social media platform, the AP reports. A song with the name of the bridge was pulled from music platforms. The AP says its reporters in the area were stopped multiple times by police, who denied anything unusual had happened. The hashtag "I saw it" was viewed more than 180,000 times before it was also deleted, the Guardian reports. "One makes matters worse by attempting a cover-up," one user wrote.

Supporters praised the protester's actions, with some calling him a "hero"—another hashtag that was restricted—and likening him to the "Tank Man" seen during the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The BBC reports that internet users identified the protester as a physicist who had posted a manifesto on the research site ResearchGate, calling for a strike and acts of civil disobedience Sunday to stop the "dictator Xi Jinping from illegally continuing in office, so that China can embark on the road to democracy and freedom." A Communist Party congress begins Sunday, the 20th in the party's 101-year history, and Xi is widely expected to secure a third term as party leader, breaking the precedents of recent decades, NPR reports. (Read more China stories.)

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