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China protests: How Chinese are using 'white paper' to voice dissent

'White paper' protest, China's new symbol of defiance

HEALTH–CORONAVIRUS/CHINA People hold white sheets of paper in protest over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Beijing, China | Reuters

The unprecedented protests in China against the country's stringent zero-Covid policy are gaining world attention for their mode, too. 

Images and videos circulated on social media platforms revealed students at top universities including in Nanjing and Beijing cities raising blank sheets (white papers) in a silent protest. Several users showed solidarity by posting blank white squares or photos through social media. 

The stringent Covid policies, including mass testing, quarantines and snap lockdowns for the past three years in China have been in place for the last three years. The protests escalated after the Urumqi incident which claimed the lives of 10 people. According to reports, Covid restrictions delayed rescue operations in the lockdown area. 

However, the white paper protest is not a first in China. The blank paper protest is a statement on protesters being silenced and also under the law, they cannot be punished for any remarks. 

In Hong Kong in 2020, activists also raised blank sheets of white paper in protest to avoid slogans banned under the city's new national security law, which was imposed after massive and sometimes violent protests the previous year. Demonstrators in Moscow have also used them this year to protest Russia's war with Ukraine, reported Reuters. 

According to reports, first blank paper protest took place in July 2020. A young woman when asked about it told the media that she held up the white paper because she was not sure what would be illegal under the new law. After that, the blank paper protest gained momentum. 

"They put up blank notes so that even if the government wanted to prosecute them, there is nothing that can be used against them," Ma Ngok, an associate professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong was quoted by Associated Press. 

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