‘We want freedom’: key quotes from China protests

China was rocked last weekend by widespread protests not seen in decades, with hundreds of people taking to the streets across the country to demand an end to crippling Covid lockdowns.

Initially sparked by the deaths of ten people in a fire in Xinjiang (deaths that protesters attribute to covid lockdowns), they have expanded to call for greater political freedoms, an end to state censorship and even the resignation of President Xi Jinping.

Here are some of the movement’s key quotes, translated from images of protests in China circulating on social media, which have been verified by AFP.

– Young woman, Beijing –
“After the surge in the crowd happened in South Korea, all the media reported a lot about it on the second day. But let’s take a look, do we have any official media reports? Our own citizens and nationals died in a man-made disaster, do we have any report?

“No, they are all lies! All silence! Everything is silent! So we launched a white paper mourning campaign. Is there something on the paper? No, all the accusations are in our hearts, all the mourning is in our hearts!”

“We want the confinement to be lifted, the emergency exits to be unblocked, the passages of life to be unblocked, we want the voices of the people to be heard, we want to mourn our own citizens.”

– Student, Tsinghua University –

“If we don’t dare speak out because we’re afraid of being discredited, I think our people will be disappointed in us.”

“As a student at Tsinghua University, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

– Youth, Beijing –

(Referring to the accusation that foreign forces are behind the protests): “May I ask if the foreign forces you speak of are Marx and Engels? Is it Stalin? Is it Lenin? Was the fire in Xinjiang started by foreign forces?

“We can’t even access the internet abroad! Where do we get the foreign forces? How do foreign forces communicate with us? We only have forces within our borders to prevent us from coming together!”

“We will always support the Communist Party. But we want democracy, we want freedom. Are these two contradictory?

“The Communist Party was the vanguard of democracy and freedom. We just want the free and open democratic Communist Party to return. That is all.”

– Protesters, Shanghai –

“Down with the Communist Party! Down with Xi Jinping!”

“Open Wulumuqi! Open Xinjiang! Open China!”

– Young woman, Chengdu –

“Why do we have to be afraid when we tell the truth? In the past two days, I have been posting on WeChat and Douyin, but all my friends have told me: be careful, be careful that you don’t get caught.”

“Why not let people tell the truth? Why? Our government says that we are a socialist country with popular democracy, and our citizens have basic rights, such as freedom of march, demonstration and expression, but do they really have them?

“Do we? We can’t touch any sensitive political issue in the slightest.”

“Now I know why other countries say we don’t have human rights in China. I only realized right now in 2022, do we really have human rights?

“Our great diplomats… tell foreigners how happy the Chinese are, so please take a look, are we happy now?”

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