Barely a month after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, which gave Xi Jinping a third presidential term, China is going through its biggest political upheaval since the spring of 1989. Then the young students occupied Tiananmen Square demanding democracy and got the answer a brutal military intervention. In recent days, thousands of protesters, in at least ten large cities, without distinction of professions or classes, have been taking to the streets to denounce the strict confinements imposed by the so-called zero covid policy, clearly identified with Xi Jinping. With blank pages in their hands against digital censorship or protecting their mobiles from police persecution, the protesters exhibit for the first time a rebellion against Xi Jinping that combines the rejection of anti-covid measures with the denunciation of police control of a regime autocratic.
The current civil disobedience movement criticizes the methods with which health policy is applied, the absence of any transparency and the lack of freedoms, democracy and accountability on the part of the authorities. Also the disastrous economic consequences of some radical confinements that have caused popular outbursts in various factories and industries that have been harshly repressed. The excess of confidence in his authoritarian powers and the severity of the measures against the covid have turned this policy of Xi Jinping into the unifying flag of a nascent movement that expresses in the streets and through videos of very fast circulation the insubordination almost always of youth against the monopoly of the Communist Party.
The spark that caused the social outbreak is significant. Ten people who were confined died in the fire of a building in Urumqi, the capital of Xingjiang. All the victims belonged to the Uyghur ethnic group, until recently the majority in the region, subjected by the regime to a policy of assimilation, to a slow substitution by the Han ethnic population, now the majority, and to massive internments to change their religious behaviors. linguistic and even customs, which some Western governments and parliaments have considered a case of genocide.
The repressive experience of the Chinese regime and especially the memory of the Tiananmen massacre 33 years ago, just when the Chinese communist sister regimes in Europe refused to use arms against democratic demands, now makes us fear the worst. It will be difficult for Xi Jinping to accept a failure that is his own, his lifetime presidency and his claims to superiority of the autocratic system in both managing the economy and public health.
Protests in factories and buildings confined by covid outbreaks increasingly have an economic cause together with the fatigue of the population subjected to systematic random screenings and continuous PCR tests. Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Indonesia to attend the G-20 and the dissemination of images of a world less and less subject to the control of the pandemic —as in the World Cup in Qatar— have fueled mobilizations that reinforce distrust of the official method to curb the epidemic and openly question its worst consequences. The fearsome police repression has already begun.