Chinese Whispers

Echoes of 1989: where the protests go next

40 min listen

In This Episode

Comparisons with 1989’s Tiananmen Square protests are too often evoked when it comes to talking about civil disobedience in China. Even so, this weekend’s protests have been historic. It’s the first time since the zero Covid policy started that people across the country have simultaneously marched against the government, their fury catalysed by the deaths of ten people in a locked down high rise building in Xinjiang. Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Xi’An, Urumqi, Nanjing (my home city) have all seen protests over the weekend. Most of them attack the zero Covid policy, but some have called out ‘Down with Xi Jinping’.

After two days of protests, these cities, especially Shanghai, now see heavy police presence, with the authorities searching phones of any seeming troublemakers. This weekend’s burst of free speech may already have been snuffed out. Can the protestors sustain their momentum given the tight grip of the state? 

I’m joined by Professor Jeff Wasserstrom at UC Irvine, an expert on protests in the mainland and Hong Kong, and Isabel Hilton, a long time China watcher and founder of China Dialogue.


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