Chinese Students Protest in America, Face Danger at Home

One mainlander’s story of resistance and risk.

Foreign Policy
Date: May 28, 2018
By: Qiu Zhongsun

A US and a Chinese flag wave outside a commercial building in Beijing on July 9, 2007. (Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty Images)

I took one final look at the posters I had just taped to the bulletin board in a student lounge at the University of California, San Diego. Superimposed over the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping were three simple words in red: Not My President. My own face had been concealed under a hoodie as I put the pictures up — and I’d waited, along with a friend, until late at night to make sure no one saw us.

I had to take these measures to protect my identity because for mainland Chinese like myself, the oppression we face at home follows us abroad. The Chinese Communist Party has learned how to project its regime of surveillance and coercion deep inside the borders of liberal democracies. Initiating a campaign of political resistance, even in a Western country, meant risking my safety and that of my family back in China.

Just a few days earlier, on Feb. 25, the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislative body, had announced a proposal to remove constitutional term limits on the presidency, which since the 1980s had been limited to two five-year terms. Chinese presidents aren’t elected, but the selection process, ever since reformer Deng Xiaoping, had been a matter of consensus among the top echelons of the party, deliberately limiting the strength of any one individual. After the proposal inevitably passed, it would smooth the course for Xi, chosen for the critical roles of both party chairman and president in 2012, to become president for life instead of quitting in 2022.

News of the proposal swept China’s social media, and posts expressing frustration, shock, and helplessness flooded online platforms — but only for a few short hours. Then, all the discussion was deleted as the myriad censors who now police the Chinese internet kicked into high gear.    [FULL  STORY]