10/17/2023, 11.54
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Beijing: one year after bridge protest still no news on Peng Lifa

by John Ai

The man had climbed onto the capital's Sitong Bridge and put up banners demanding the resignation of President Xi Jinping and an end to the 'zero covid' policy. Several student protests had subsequently broken out, reminiscent of the Tiananmen protests of 1989. While it is not known where the protester has been confined, his family members are in police custody, activists and volunteers abroad report.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - One year after the only protest that took place in the city center of Beijing, activists are still looking for Peng Lifa (who had posted protest slogans on the Sitong bridge in the capital and is therefore known by the nickname " bridgeman”) and his family members, who, according to some volunteers, are in police custody.

Over the weekend several Chinese students abroad commemorated the first anniversary of the protest, the largest since the Tiananmen protest in 1989. In Shanghai, young people had explicitly called on Xi Jinping to resign and in some cities demonstrators had overcome fences police blockade.

Many students had been arrested but local authorities had subsequently decided to abandon the "zero covid" policy imposed by Beijing. At the same time, overseas Chinese youth groups have established a number of independent organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.

Lin Shengliang, a Chinese activist living in the Netherlands, has compiled a list of Chinese Communist Party officials who have committed human rights violations. Volunteers from his team, after collecting personal information, contacted officials by telephone to urge them to put an end to the abuse.

According to reliable sources, Peng Lifa's wife Han Yang and her two daughters are still living in Beijing under strict police surveillance. They are "escorted" by the police around the clock and go to work and school in vehicles provided by the authorities.

Peng Lifa's father-in-law who ran a business in the capital now lives and works in a factory designated by the authorities on the outskirts. Other relatives from Peng's hometown of Tailai county in northeastern Heilongjiang province are also under surveillance.

Some people who attempted to visit them were blocked by the police once they arrived near the city. And letters sent to Peng's house were also intercepted via the online tracking system and calls to delivery men.

However, it is not known where Peng is confined. His family have received no news or warnings since he disappeared and are afraid to speak in public or to the media. Volunteers in China who were gathering information on “bridgeman” were also arrested.

Last year's protest occurred shortly before the 20th CPC Congress. Peng Lifa had hung two banners on Sitong Bridge, near the campuses of the country's best universities, urging President Xi Jinping to resign and calling for freedom and an end to the restrictive measures due to the "zero covid" policy.

Once on the bridge, Peng had burned tires to attract attention. Photos and videos of the protest have been censored on Chinese social networks and the Sitong bridge no longer appears on Chinese navigation maps, while the road signs indicating the direction to reach it have been removed. On the anniversary of the protest, police tightened security around the bridge and prevented passers-by from taking photos

The name “bridgeman” reminds the Chinese population of “tankman”, the man who stood in front of the line of tanks that entered Beijing during the repression of the pro-democracy movement in 1989. Mike Gallagher, president of the Committee on Chinese Affairs in the United States House of Representatives, nominated Peng Lifa as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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