People are holding up blank white sheets of paper in China to protest COVID lockdowns. It's become a symbol of defiance against the Communist Party.

Protesters in China hold up pieces of white paper in defiance of China's COVID-zero measures
Holding up a sheet of white paper has now become a powerful symbol of protest in China.Reuters
  • A sheet of white paper has become a symbol of protest against COVID lockdowns in China.

  • People in major Chinese cities held up blank pieces of A4 paper while marching in the streets.

  • News about people holding up paper in protest has been suppressed on Weibo.

The act of holding up a blank piece of paper has become a symbol of protest in China as people take to the streets to protest the government's ongoing zero-COVID measures.

Protests against China's harsh COVID-19 restrictions erupted across China over the weekend. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing had rallies of a scale not seen since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The anti-government protests were largely peaceful, though people in cities like Shanghai were met with violence from the police, and they featured a common sight: People raising sheets of white paper above their heads.

One large rally took place at Chinese President Xi Jinping's alma mater, Tsinghua University in Beijing. Students were seen brandishing sheets of paper and crying out slogans like: "Government for the people, freedom for all."

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Videos posted to Twitter over the weekend also showed a large-scale protest near Liangma Bridge in Beijing on Sunday, where people held up white papers and chanted slogans like: "No to our leaders, yes to voting. We won't be slaves, we are citizens."

"The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say," a 26-year-old man named Johnny told Reuters during the Liangma River protests.

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Protesters in the central Chinese city of Chengdu were seen holding pieces of paper at a rally, as unrest spread from major Chinese cities to smaller ones.

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Youths were also seen holding up paper while walking through the streets of Dali city in the southwestern Yunnan province, while playing music and singing.

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In a now-deleted video, one person took to Weibo, the country's Twitter-like platform, to offer another explanation for the meaning of the paper, per Bloomberg. Posting a video of a blank piece of paper, the user wrote: "Silence speaks louder here, those who understand know."

Signs of protest are censored on Weibo

Information about protesters holding up sheets of white paper appears to have been widely suppressed on Weibo.

Multiple hashtags related to the protests have been censored, Insider found. Insider searched the category tag "meaning of holding white paper" and specific hashtags like "Tsinghua students white paper," but found that no posts were displayed. The app displayed a notification that read "no data found." However, the hashtag still existed on the platform — though the posts were wiped clean — a telltale sign that the threads had been scrubbed and censored.

Footage of small-scale protests also appeared to have been censored on Chinese social-media platforms.

One striking video shows a young woman walking through the streets of Wuzhen, a town in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The woman could be seen wearing chains around her hands, duct tape over her mouth, and holding a sheet of white paper in her hands. At press time, Insider was unable to find the video or its source on Weibo, and searches for "Wuzhen" only displayed posts about tourist spots and restaurants in the town.

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China's censorship machine, which was already capable of shutting down entire Weibo threads within three hours back in 2012, has been in overdrive in recent years. The platform swiftly censored any dissent regarding the Chinese government's COVID-19 policies — including news about food shortages this year.

Some posts do manage to evade the censors. One incident in October — concerning the death of a girl at a COVID-19 quarantine center in China — ended up gaining widespread attention, though the ensuing outrage was quickly censored too.

Representatives at Weibo did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the original article on Insider