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Proud, scared and conflicted. What the China protesters told me.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989

November 30, 2022 / 12:15 PM IST
In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where mass democracy protests erupted in 2019, dozens gathered at the Chinese University to mourn the victims of the Urumqi fire.

In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where mass democracy protests erupted in 2019, dozens gathered at the Chinese University to mourn the victims of the Urumqi fire. "Don't look away. Don't forget," protesters shouted. (Image: AFP)

Li Yuan (The New New World)

They went to their first demonstrations. They chanted their first protest slogans. They had their first encounters with the police. Then they went home, shivering in disbelief at how they had challenged the most powerful authoritarian government in the world and the most iron-fisted leader China has seen in decades.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989, when the ruling Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly college students. No matter what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the young protesters presented a new threat to the rule of Xi, who has eliminated his political opponents and suppressed any voice that challenges his rule.

Also Read | China hints at relaxing zero-COVID policy amid global outcry over crackdown on protests