What is the white paper revolution?

Chinese protesters have turned to a single, simple everyday object in their demonstrations against the strict “zero COVID” strategy – a blank sheet of paper.

As mass protests first erupted in major cities across China last weekend, protesters could be seen waving blank sheets of white paper, leading some to dub the protests the “revolution white paper” or the “A4 revolution” for standard sheet size.

The so-called “white paper revolution” was sparked by a deadly fire at an apartment in the northwest city of Urumqi that killed 10 people and injured nine others. Many blamed strict COVID-19 policies for slowing rescue efforts at the building, which had been in a state of lockdown for several months.

Some protesters initially held up the white sheets of paper as a symbol of mourning, as white is the color of death and mourning in Chinese culture, according to The New York Times.

However, the sheets of paper are widely used as a symbol of defiance against the Chinese state’s strict censorship, while also serving as a convenient method to evade censorship itself.

“The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say,” a young protester told Reuters.

“[It] means ‘we are the voiceless, but we are also powerful,’” another protester told The Times.

Protesters in Hong Kong also used blank sheets of paper to express their dissatisfaction with a national security law imposed by the Chinese government in 2020, which banned the use of slogans and banners calling for independence from the town.

Even as some protesters in China have taken the calmer path of the white papers, others have taken a more outspoken approach, calling on Chinese President Xi Jinping and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to step down.

“Xi Jinping! Quit! CCP! Quit!” chanted protesters on Sunday.

Chinese authorities initially responded to the protests by easing some coronavirus restrictions on Monday. However, the country’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission also warned on Tuesday that it will “resolutely crack down on the infiltration and sabotage activities of hostile forces”.


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