Chinese Protesters Use Their Bodies as Weapons Against the State
In China, crowds of people line the streets. They are holding blank sheets of paper. There’s nothing special about the paper; it’s ordinary A4 letter size. The police nonetheless know what they mean. The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party know what they mean. The world knows what they mean.
By standing with empty pages in hand, the protesters’ goal is to make manifest the implied violence that authoritarian states use to keep order. If you want control over me, they silently declare, you must violently take my body away, for the world to see, even though I have done nothing more than exist.
There’s an old Soviet joke about this. A man in a train station hands out leaflets to passersby. When the KGB arrests him, it discovers that the leaflets are blank pieces of paper.
“What’s the meaning of this?” its agents demand.
“Everyone knows what the problem is,” he says, “so why bother writing it down?”
Everyone does know the problem. The state has taken too much.
In November in China, the immediate impetus for the protests was extreme COVID-19 lockdowns, which prevented people from conducting the basic business of life. The draconian, abrupt, and arbitrary restrictions led to the lonely, unnecessary deaths of the trapped, the sick, the starved, including 10 people who were killed in a fire in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, on November 24.
China does not have a monopoly on intolerable state repression, nor are its people alone in taking refuge in wordless protest. In Tehran, women stood in the street and put up t
Article from Reason.com