On Nov. 27, 2022, I saw the surreal photo of a young man somewhere in China. He was standing on the street at night, and held a blank sheet of paper in his hands as if it was a sign in a demonstration.
He wore a Covid mask over his eyes as a blindfold; it was a low-quality image taken furtively by an anonymous photographer.
The young man was with the newly formed White Paper Revolutionaries. Because the state forbids them from speaking freely—they hold blank white sheets of paper as a protest.
The White Paper Revolution started in Xinjiang province on Nov. 24, 2022, when a deadly fire broke out in a high-rise apartment building in the regional capital of Urumqi (uu-RUUM-chee).
The province is officially known as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, home to the Muslim-minority Uyghur. At least 10 people died in the fire; some say there were up to 40 dead. Many Chinese are blaming the deaths on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leader Xi Jinping.
Xi and the CCP have pushed a draconian “Zero-Covid” policy that has kept the Chinese people under severe Covid lockdowns, using all the surveillance and police power the totalitarian state can muster. Xinjiang has been hit especially hard by these brutal policies, which have also devastated the Chinese economy.
Since they don’t want people coming in contact with one another because of Covid, the communist authorities developed a policy of gating-off communities by closing streets with locked security fences and check points. They began to lock and chain-up entryways to homes and buildings, welding iron bars over doors to prevent opening them.
The doors in the Urumqi high-rise were locked and wired shut; when a fire broke out the apartment became a death trap. Think about that for a moment. What led authorities to lock-up all occupants of a high-rise apartment like it was a prison? They locked it up because the apartment was a prison, and the People’s Republic of China is indeed a prison nation.
Tragic fires in America’s past brought stringent fire codes to the nation. Buildings in the US today must have access to clearly marked, escape routes that are never locked. Despite those who want to “defund the police,” Americans can’t imagine police officers locking them up in their homes at night… not yet anyway. But in the “worker’s paradise” of China the CCP can lock you up in your home and if you object… well then, it’s off to jail with you.
The people of China are outraged by the avoidable Urumqi apartment fire, and they have lost all fear of the regime. It’s a historic moment, one that is almost unimaginable; thousands of people have hit the streets shouting slogans like: “Step down Xi Jinping! Step down Communist Party!” “Don’t want dictatorship, want democracy!” “We don’t want Covid tests, we want freedom!” and “Give me freedom or give me death!”
These are words that ordinarily get you a long jail sentence in China. It’s not an exaggeration to say China’s pro-democracy dissidents are risking their lives for liberty. Almost immediately blank sheets of paper were utilized as a means of protest. If anyone knows who came up with the idea they ain’t talking, and for obvious reasons. In today’s world A4 is a standard paper size used to print documents, letters, and forms; its something accessible to all Chinese people living in cities and towns. To make a commonplace thing subversive is a stroke of genius.
The Chinese defying the communist cabal say they carry blank sheets of paper to protest censorship and fight defamatory propaganda. The bitterly ironic idea of using blank paper to mock the regime instantly became known as the “A4 Revolution,” or “White Paper Revolution.” This classic expression of Chinese wisdom brought new meaning to the 1977 punk idiom, Blank Generation.
Meanwhile, videos from the central city of Wuhan show hundreds of protestors demolishing metal barricades and security checkpoints, tearing down Covid testing tents, and calling for an end to lockdowns and the reign of Xi Jinping. Don’t forget, Wuhan is where Covid first appeared.
A4 protestors have been singing Red China’s National Anthem in the streets as part of their ongoing protests; here are the words to the very first line of the song: “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves.” So, the revolutionary song of the Chinese communists has come full circle—the CCP has become the slave drivers and the people refuse bondage. It’s a certainty that pro-Democracy stalwarts are singing the last stanza of the anthem: “Brave the enemy’s gunfire, March on!”
As I write this on Nov. 28, 2022, Chinese dissidents are reporting that communist authorities are implementing a major crackdown. Armored cars and tanks have been spotted along with armed security personnel. Police are stopping people to check if their phones have photos showing the protests, or have apps like Telegram, Twitter, or Instagram that can be used to share information with the outside world. If so, police force the phone owner to delete materials on pain of arrest.
On June 4, 1989 the CCP ordered the People’s Liberation Army to crush the million strong pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. The army fired indiscriminately into the crowd, killing anywhere from 300 to thousands; we’ll never know since the PLA confiscated the bodies. Some 10,000 protesters were arrested; the people deemed the onslaught, the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Today the CCP again fights for its life, and its nemesis is none other than the Chinese people. The White Paper revolt has torn the mask from the tyrant’s face.
A Chinese cartoon now circulates online; it’s a parody of the photo showing the man who stood in front of People’s Liberation Army tanks in 1989, blocking them from reaching Tiananmen Square. In popular history the brave fellow is known as “Tank Man.” The present-day cartoon shows a man blocking three squads of riot cops wearing white Covid protective suits and blue Covid face masks—the very uniforms police units wear while repressing the A4 revolt. In the cartoon the lead officer in each squad carries a handheld tear gas cannon approximating a tank barrel. It would be funny if the situation was not so serious.
And speaking of Xi Jinping’s “Zero-Covid” policies hammering the economy. Thousands of workers at FoxConn, the world’s largest iPhone plant located in Zhengzhou, China, stopped working to protest the harsh lockdowns. Riot police wearing white Covid protective suits and blue Covid face masks, beat, kicked, and arrested the workers, who valiantly fought back. There’s video coming out of China showing FoxConn workers fighting the CCP police, and making them run.
It’s nice to learn that Apple produces its much desired iPhone in the brutal, one party dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China.
It’s also good to know that Apple stopped advertising on Twitter to make clear their dislike of the new owner Elon Musk. Apple threatens to remove Twitter from its App Store. Yet, Apple doesn’t mind collaborating with the dictatorial Chinese Communist Party and profiting from slave labor at FoxConn. Hey Apple, thanks for providing a perfect encapsulation of your old advertising slogan of “Think Different.”
Know this. During the Nov. 2022 Asia-Paciﬁc Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic forum held in Bangkok, Thailand, Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chair of the World Economic Forum, sat for an interview with Chinese state media CGTN, one of many CCP mouthpieces. Schwab said he respected China’s “tremendous” achievements in modernizing its economy; saying “I think it’s a role model for many countries (….) The Chinese model is certainly a very attractive model for quite a number of countries.”
China is a land where people have never been allowed to vote, a place where freedom of speech and dissent is punished, religion is forbidden, and the religious minded are routinely victimized. A million Uyghur Muslims have been thrown into concentration camps where they are tortured and pressed into forced labor. But Mr. Schwab thinks this “a very attractive model.” Needless to say, the Biden administration agrees with Schwab, and will do nothing to relieve the suffering of the Chinese people, who yearn to be free.
Xi Jinping and his red mandarins may subdue the White Paper Revolution, but they’ll never defeat it, it’s too late for that. The wise, powerful, and kindly Chinese dragon has given flight… and he will never be caged.
Below: Wandering minstrels in Kunming, Yunnan Province. Nov. 27, 2022. With blank sheets of paper pinned to them, they perform “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from the 1980 musical Les Misérables. Credit: 李啥啥