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Banner in Beijing displays rare voices of dissent

October 13, 2022

A banner was unfurled on Sitong Bridge brandishing the words: "We need food, not COVID tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns." Censors quickly removed references to the protest on social media.

People ride scooters at an intersection near a bridge where social media videos earlier appeared to show smoke and protest banners in Beijing
Social media videos have circulated appearing to show smoke and protest bannersImage: Dake Kang/AP/picture alliance

At least one person was arrested in Beijing on Thursday in a rare display of disapproval over the leadership of President Xi Jinping. It comes just days before the Communist Party's National Congress, which only occurs every five years.

A banner was unfurled on Sitong Bridge in the Chinese capital's Haidian district, brandishing the words: "We need food, not COVID tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns," in reference to China's strict zero-COVID policy.

"We want dignity, not lies. We need reform, no cultural revolution," the white banner continued in red letters. "We want to vote, not a leader. Don't be slaves, be citizens."

'Dictator Xi Jinping' heard on a megaphone

Over a megaphone, a voice could be heard demanding: "Oust dictator Xi Jinping," according to footage circulating on social media.

Smoke was also set off at the scene of the protest, and a scorched pavement could be seen from the same location later on Thursday.

Scorched pavement is seen on the side of a highway overpass near the site where social media videos earlier appeared to show smoke and protest banners in Beijing
Scorched pavement could be seen near where social media videos earlier appeared to show smoke and protest banners in the Chinese capitalImage: AP

According to news agency dpa, police could also be seen taking one person into custody and loading him into a van while the banner was removed.

Shortly after the protest, the search term "Sitong Bridge" was blocked on the Chinese short message service Weibo.

The incidents come as members of the country’s ruling Communist Party gather for a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle that begins Sunday. At the meeting, Xi is poised to tighten his grip as China's most powerful leader in decades by securing a third leadership term.

jsi/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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