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Don’t let China Stage Another Tiananmen Massacre

Jianli Yang, a VOC Truman-Reagan Freedom Medal laureate,  is a Tiananmen Square protester,  former political prisoner of China, the founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, and the author of “For Us, the Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth.” The following op-ed was originally published in the Washington Post.

On Oct. 13, just a few days before the start of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress, a man staged a solo protest on an overpass in Beijing against President Xi Jinping and his draconian “zero covid” policy. I had hoped that this lone hero’s actions would trigger a wave of peaceful protest to stop Xi from continuing to harm the Chinese people — even though my hopes were tempered by an awareness that the regime’s policies of intense repression have made protests rare and almost impossible to start.

What has happened over the past week has exceeded all my expectations. First came the uprising by workers at a Foxconn factory complex protesting dismal working conditions. Then came nationwide protests after a fire in Xinjiang that killed a number of people who were reportedly unable to escape the burning building because of harsh lockdown conditions.

The demonstrations began by expressing rage over harsh “zero covid” policies, but the protesters’ demands quickly evolved into a movement demanding broader freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from the dictates of the Communist Party. The demonstrators everywhere are largely repeating the slogans displayed by that lone protester on the Beijing bridge. “We want to eat, not do coronavirus tests; reform, not the Cultural Revolution,” read one recent banner. “We want freedom, not lockdowns; elections, not rulers. We want dignity, not lies. Be citizens, not enslaved people.”

As someone who participated in the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989, I can’t help feeling echoes of that moment in the events taking place in China now.

Read the full article in the Washington Post.