Last Thursday, Dec. 1, students held a memorial in front of Geisel Library in support of recent protests against the Zero-Covid policy in China. Around 80 masked people, largely from the campus Chinese community, gathered holding white paper and slogans writing “We don’t want Covid test. We want freedom.”
Revelle college junior Yakisoba shared that this memorial intended to raise community awareness and pressure the Chinese government to end the Zero-Covid policy as well as freeing the detained Chinese protestors.
On Nov. 24, a massive protest broke out in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi, right after a deadly fire that caused 10 people to lose their lives. Protestors surmised that victims couldn’t escape out of their high-rise buildings because of the covid lockdown. It is reported that police later came and arrested at least eight protestors. Similar protests soon occurred in other cities including Shanghai and Hong Kong, where dozens of protesters were witnessed being escorted by police.
“We can’t take it anymore and we won’t. No more lockdown! We need to live normally! We want freedom! I want democracy! We want dignity,” the speakers of the memorial said in their closing remarks. “People in Xinjiang have stepped up, so have the people in Shanghai, and in Beijing, and in Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Chongqing, Guangzhou, everywhere in China. Now, at this moment it’s time for us in San Diego to step up!”
After listening to a bilingual speech, the protestors marched all the way to the Triton Statue behind Price Center, chanting “No more lockdowns, no more lies” and “No more dictators in my life.” Afterward, they started singing anthems, with related protest videos projected on the wall.
These anti-zero-Covid protests are also called “White Paper protests” or “A4Revolution.” According to Yakisoba, protestors have chosen to hold A4-sized white paper as their way to express their objection. “There are so many things people want to say but they cannot say due to censorship, so we just decided to hold white pieces as a format of protest.”
“I want to pass the sense of anger and shock we all feel seeing what CCP has done,” Yakisoba said. “The current protest taking place in China is quite unusual. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest, most political protests only happen abroad, because people are afraid of being spotted or detected by the police, which may put their families in danger,” they said.
The 80 organizers learned about this event online or through campus posters and joined the Telegram group chat to help hold the memorial. Yakisoba, who set up the group chat, said, “there is no so-called event organizer here. Everyone is the organizer.”
An Earl Warren College junior, who wished to remain anonymous, said that, “as students studying overseas, we have the privilege to express ourselves on what happened in China. I’m here hoping to echo with Chinese protestors and be politically active.”
Moreover, the protester shared that his mother knew nothing about the recent protests because of the internet firewall and national censorship. Yakisoba’s parents, on the other hand, were long quarantined in their apartment, with the main gate to their community complex locked down. They were also required to have mandatory Covid tests every single day, according to Yakisoba.
“I want the people [and Chinese government] to see the suffering in China and to stop the secondary damage caused by the Zero-Covid Policy,” the Warren student said. “The Zero-Covid policy was initially good, but things changed and a new approach should be adopted against the narrative of the official Chinese government.”
The “narrative of the official Chinese government,” as they further clarified, is the propaganda strategy the Chinese government adopted to emphasize the severity of a coronavirus outbreak despite its low fatality rate after vaccination.
In a recent Reddit post, however, the posters and candles left in front of Geisel Library were seen torn down and destroyed by masked individuals late at night. A similar situation occurred at UC Berkeley as well.
Editor’s Note: Due to safety concerns for the writer of this article as well as the interviewed students, they were all granted anonymity by request through the use of pseudonyms or omitted names.
Photo by Sophie Nourbakhsh for the UCSD Guardian.