Hundreds of U.S.-based advocates have expressed their support for protesters in China by staging their own rallies calling for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to step down.
In the past week, protests have erupted in Shanghai, Beijing and other parts of China to condemn and resist the government’s strict zero-COVID policy. The protests have since spread to nearly 80 campuses across China, where students have also voiced their resistance.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered at Harvard University and near Chinese consulates in New York and Chicago to lend their voices to the rising clamor for change in China.
At Harvard in Massachusetts, over a hundred protesters held demonstrations in front of the John Harvard statue, according to The Crimson. Flowers were laid at the foot of the statue in honor of those who died in a fire in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi amid tight lockdowns.
Attendees also held blank sheets of white paper, mirroring Chinese protesters using the blank sheets as a symbol of defiance against the government.
The protesters chanted in both Chinese and English: “Step down, Xi Jinping,” “We are not slaves, we are citizens!” and “We don’t want dictatorships, we want elections!”
The participants said they mostly wore masks out of concern that Chinese authorities could identify them and penalize their families back home.
One of the protesters, who identified himself as Wayne, told the Associated Press that his relatives in China could face harassment or loss of employment.
Duke students of Chinese descent, international students from China and other members of the Triangle’s Chinese communities held a vigil on Monday night at the Duke University Chapel. According to The Chronicle, attendees lit candles, laid bouquets of flowers and placed signs with messages such as “Urumqi Rd.,” “Liberty or Death” and “No lockdown, no Zero-COVID policy, no dictatorship.”
A similar vigil was held Monday evening at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of students reportedly attended.
Other protests in solidarity with the Chinese people were also held at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley. Similar demonstrations will reportedly be held at other universities in the U.S. in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, around 200 protesters stood in front of the Chinese consulate in Chicago to chant: “We don’t want PCR tests, we want food!” and “We don’t want a dictator, we want votes!”
Around 400 protesters near the Chinese consulate in New York also held blank white placards as well as signs that read: “Citizen Dignity Freedom” and “Free China.”
Anger in China has been brewing for months as more and more citizens are expressing their resistance to the zero-COVID policy that is forcing millions of Chinese into city-wide lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing.
Many also attribute the massive protests in Shanghai, Beijing and other parts of China last week to the deadly fire that killed 10 people inside a partially locked down building in Urumqi. Social media users have condemned the lockdowns for preventing residents from escaping in time.