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HomeUK NewsChinese protests bring back memories of Tiananmen Square - but latest outcry...

Chinese protests bring back memories of Tiananmen Square – but latest outcry could give Chairman Xi real trouble

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MASS protests have broken out across China, and it is hard to stress how unusual this is.
The Communist Party which rules the country has not faced anything like this since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
Protesters shout slogans during a protest against China's strict zero Covid measures3Protesters shout slogans during a protest against China’s strict zero Covid measuresCredit: GettyThe world still has no idea how many of the student protesters were killed in the Tiananmen square protests in 19893The world still has no idea how many of the student protesters were killed in the Tiananmen square protests in 1989Credit: APAnd it is hardly surprising.
For on that occasion the authorities put down the protests with all the brutality you could imagine.
People were arrested and disappeared.
We still have no idea how many of the student protesters were killed.
Why has Kris Wu been jailed in China?BBC journalist 'beaten up' & arrested as China sends cops to crush protests
Since then the world has seen China lock down still further.
While the country freed up its economy, it did not free up its system.
And although it had been expected by some outside observers that the internet would have an impact on Chinese society, the authorities found a way around that too.
Western companies such as Google were happy to make money in China and change their behaviour so the communists could keep away information which might harm them.

Breaking point
But it turns out you cannot seal a lid so firmly on a society for ever.
Ever since the coronavirus came out of Wuhan in 2020 the world has had to go into lockdowns.
But nowhere have these been as total as in China, with people physically locked into their apartment blocks.
Chinese President Xi Jinping aims to achieve zero Covid which has meant vast cities going into lockdown for months on end3Chinese President Xi Jinping aims to achieve zero Covid which has meant vast cities going into lockdown for months on endCredit: APEven now, Chairman Xi Jinping has been aiming for a “zero-Covid” policy in China, something hard to enforce against any virus, never mind in a country of 1.4billion people where reporting is on the dubious side to say the least.
Only 5,226 people have died since the pandemic began, according to officials.
Also tricky in a nation whose homegrown vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm, have had their efficacy called into question by international scientists.
To achieve zero Covid has meant vast cities going into lockdown for months on end.
Lockdowns in this country were not much fun.
But in China they must be a nightmare.
Cities including Shanghai are packed full with people in vast tower blocks.
The city looks more like a scene from Bladerunner than anything else.
I guess everybody has their breaking point.
Perhaps it has now come, with protests breaking out in Wuhan, Beijing, Shanghai and other cities across the country.
In Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets, breaking lockdown rules and chanting anti-regime slogans.
In the western Chinese city of Urumqi locals are protesting after a fire in an apartment block killed ten.
The protesters are claiming the rescue efforts were hampered by the city’s strict Covid policies, which would have made it illegal for people to flee the burning building.
A nightmare if ever I heard of one.
Still the authorities are trying to do everything they can to keep the country’s 1.4billion people in isolation and ignorance.
They do go to extraordinary lengths.
When Chinese viewers watched coverage of the World Cup many were apparently amazed to see football fans in the stands not wearing masks.
As The Sun reported yesterday, some Chinese viewers wondered if they were on “the same planet”.
While tens of millions of people were under lockdown in China, here were thousands of fans enjoying life as normal.
So outraged did many people become at this difference that the Chinese authorities became worried.
In recent matches the state broadcaster, CCTV, has taken to editing out pictures of maskless fans.
But far worse than mere editing is already underway.
In cities across the country footage is emerging of the police attacking the civilian protesters.
People caught recording this on their phones are also getting attacked.
As in Tiananmen Square 33 years ago, it is hard to imagine the bravery that these members of the public are displaying.
Solitary women and men are standing there as the police and others in hazmat suits rush in, beat and arrest them.
On Sunday a BBC journalist was kicked and beaten by police as he tried to record the protests.
If the protests continue this sort of thing will just be a taste of what is to come.
President Xi and the rest of the Communist Party now have a great question before them.
The same one that faced their predecessors in 1989.
Do they allow some degree of protest to continue?
Do they clamp down on them with all the fire in their armoury?
Or, might one or other of these make things worse?
The brutal crackdown in 1989 undoubtedly worked.
But with these anti-lockdown protests happening across China there is a different dynamic today.
What if the authorities cannot stop this?
What if even the whole, ruthless power of the communist state cannot keep so many of the population locked up, climbing up the walls, in their homes?
What if the “zero-Covid” lockdown policy was the moment the Communist Party finally overreached and pushed the population against them?
I hope that they have overreached, and that the protesters grow in number and in strength.
The Chinese Communist Party has long been a bad actor on the world stage, undercutting us on security, trade and much more.
I’ve been forced to sleep in TENT because my mouldy house is making me sickI’m a time-traveller and I KNOW who wins the World Cup…I have video proof
It has tried to keep its people away from freedom for too long.
May this be the moment freedom comes back and wins.

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