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How can one voice one’s anger in a highly censored environment? What form of protest can one choose in a world where even city names are erased from the Internet and historical events from the collective memory? The people currently taking to the streets in China have found a weapon that is as simple as it is brilliant: A white sheet of paper. “The white paper stands for everything we want to say but can’t,” explained a young protester in Beijing on Monday. What is great about it is that, unlike flowers or yellow umbrellas, almost everyone has white paper around the house. Banning it would be like fighting windmills.
Still, Beijing tries everything to quell the protests – now aptly named the “A4Revolution“. Police are now ever-present on the streets where people have gathered in recent days. They perform selective cell phone checks. Protesters receive calls from the authorities. Universities send students off early for the semester break. But the “A4” revolution is not over yet, as Michael Radunski analyzes. With creativity and irony, the protesters are still one step ahead of the censors.
Amid the protests, EU Council President Charles Michel will now travel to China. The timing is very delicate: Many MEPs call on him to send a clear signal to Beijing. European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer even suggests that Michel should confront Xi Jinping with a white sheet of paper. That this will happen is, of course, just as unlikely as Xi’s public apology for the out-of-control Covid restrictions in his country.
Clear results should not be expected from the meeting anyway, writes Amelie Richter. For the EU, the visit will be, at best, a chance to catch up after a long break. For Xi, however, the meeting could be an image boost. After all, a meeting of the EU-US dialogue on China and the Indo-Pacific region will be held in Washington at the same time. The Chinese press could therefore interpret Michel’s visit as evidence of cracks in the transatlantic friendship – after Scholz’s visit, another point scored by China’s strongman.
Protest symbol: blank white paper
Be it in Beijing or Shanghai, Chengdu, Dali or Wuhan; be it the demand for Xi Jinping’s resignation, elections and freedom of expression or simply the end of zero-Covid – the protesters of the past few days in China have one thing in common: They hold a blank, white sheet of paper in their hands (China.Table reported).
“The white paper represents everything we want to say but can’t,” a young protester said in Beijing on Monday. “We want to live a normal life again. We want to have dignity.”
On Tuesday, the Chinese authorities managed to prevent a resurgence of protests through a massive police presence. The situation on the streets remained mostly calm. In addition, several universities sent their students home. Some universities even organized buses to take students to the train stations. The official word is that this is to prevent further Covid infections. But everyone knows what this step really aims to achieve: The end of the protests.