Demonstrators near the White House demand “Free China!”

WASHINGTON – About 200 protesters lit candles and shouted “Free China!” two blocks from the White House in support of demonstrations in China demanding an end to strict anti-virus controls and political change.

Demonstrators at Freedom Plaza held up signs reading “No Dictatorship, No Censorship” and demanded that President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party relinquish power. They held up blank sheets of paper, a symbol of resistance to the party’s pervasive censorship. Some shouted, “Liberate China!”

The protests erupted on November 25 after at least ten people died in a fire in Urumqi, a city in northwest China. Authorities dismissed suggestions that firefighters or people trying to escape might have been blocked by anti-virus controls. But the disaster became a focus of public frustration over curbs that tie millions of people to their homes.

“I didn’t pay much attention to these public affairs before because it didn’t happen to me,” said a Chinese student, who gave only her last name, Liu, for fear of retaliation.

“The COVID policy is really inappropriate,” Liu said. “Now that I’m in a country with free speech, I will do my best if my rights can be protected.”

Uyghurs, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities monitored and controlled by the Communist Party joined the protests.

“I was encouraged by the brave young people in China,” said a man who declined to give his name.

“How can we not get up after they’ve done it?” he said. “I’ll at least let them know they weren’t alone.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Demonstrators near the White House demand “Free China!”

Sarah Y. Kim

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