11/29/2022, 15.35
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Wei Jingsheng says lockdown protests different from the 1989 Tiananmen events

by Emanuele Scimia

According to the 'father of democracy' in China, the  current demonstrations are of spontaneous nature, without support within the Communist Party, unlike 33 years ago. The current movement is an expression of public opinion more so than 1989. Xi Jinping is afraid to deploy the army, he will use technology for targeted repression.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "There are some differences" between the current protests in China and the events of Tiananmen in June 1989, when the Chinese security forces massacred thousands of students and citizens gathered in the capital's iconic square to demand freedom and democracy in the country. This is the comment made to AsiaNews by Wei Jingsheng, "father of democracy" in the Asian giant, now exiled in the United States.

With the massive presence of law enforcement on the streets, and repeated arrests and checks of protesters, the popular protests in China against the anti-Covid restrictions that erupted over the weekend seem to be waning. Thousands of Chinese demonstrated in several cities across the country demanding an end to the ongoing lockdowns, going so far as to target the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Extensive demonstrations took place mainly in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou. The wave of anger follows protests in Urumqui, capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, in recent days, in which the population demanded an end to Xi's 'zero-Covid' policy. Many residents blamed the authorities for the death on November 24 of 10 people in a building fire: draconian anti-pandemic measures allegedly hindered their escape.

While the government media censors the events of these days, the more nationalist fringes start blaming 'foreign forces' for the outbreak of riots. Finding an 'external culprit' to domestic problems is an established tactic of the Chinese regime, employed not least for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The authorities are faced with a movement without leadership, moving between the physical square and the virtual one of the web. "The movement in 1989 was supported by certain forces within the CCP, so it was able to gather large-scale and long-term protests in Beijing," Wei notes. In contrast, the renowned activist points out, "now there is no clear support within the Party, and the spontaneous nature of the demonstrations is evident."

Wei emphasizes that in 1989, people were demanding reform of the communist regime and the official target of the protests was the corruption of the leaders. The protesters therefore did not have the support of workers, peasants and the army. The current pandemic prevention policy in China "harms all the Chinese people, and the protest has the support and sympathy of most Chinese."

The dissident explains that "the 1989 movement placed its hopes in the Party and publicly affirmed its support for its Central Committee." The uprisings these days call for Xi's resignation and demand that the CCP step aside, a sign that the public does not trust the Party.

Wei recalls that 33 years ago, the army had suppressed the protests with a hard fist: "Now the CCP does not dare to use the military, for fear that it will not obey its command. But it has high-tech surveillance, and precisely targeted suppression, which might not cause an international backlash".

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