Students in China protesting COVID laws are role models for us

For the first time since 1989, Chinese citizens are waking up to the hypocrisy and oppressive government surveillance they face every day. Protests have broken out across large Chinese cities against the Zero Covid policy. That policy is one in which any Covid case can, and usually will, result in the total shut down of major metropolitan areas. This leaves people stranded in homes for months at a time. Food is supposed to be delivered to residents, but it sometimes doesn’t come at all. 

The climax of this policy was on November 24, 2022, in Urumqi, China. A lockdown residential building filled with citizens caught fire. Yet families were unable to escape because of their lockdown conditions. Ten people were incinerated in the blaze. This included a three-year-old child. 

The families in that building hadn’t been outside since August.

The Zero Covid policy extends away from isolation as well. Citizens of China are regularly tested and given a “green card” for being Covid negative. It is expected that one shows their green card in any public place they go. So, even if someone gets out of their lockdown home, they still can not enter any public place in China. 

Events such as the apartment fires, green codes, and the current lockdown of 10.3 million citizens in Guangzhou are weighing down an already exhausted population. It is no surprise now that people are resisting for the first time in decades. 

Students on college campuses have been rebelling as hundreds of protests sweep across China calling for deposition of the Communist Party and the installation of free speech for the first time in generations. Universities such as Tsinghua University in Beijing have been the genesis point for many of these large student protests.The Chinese government has allowed these objections, yet they have placed soldiers and police throughout cities to monitor the situation. 

As everything has begun to boil once again, it just as quickly has been fizzling out. Apple has disabled their airdrop system in China, the only non trackable system in iPhones for Chinese citizens. This undermines the ability to hold protests for citizens because organizers can be tracked and arrested. Often protestors are met by armed police before the protests even start. 

These protests, however, are not in vain. China has chosen to relax policies. This marks one of the first times in communist China’s history that the voice of the people has affected governmental policy.

The collective voice of people has an uncontrollable effect and power.

The collective voice of people has an uncontrollable effect and power. This skill can bring change in a way other than war. Increasingly, we choose to physically fight with each other when words are our most powerful sword. That is certainly a lesson we at Haverford can learn from these protests in China and unequivocally a lesson we need to learn for the future.