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Nov 25, 2022-2022


Blank White Paper Protests



Chinese Anti-Lockdown Protesters


Xi Jinping, Chinese Goverment, COVID-19 extreme measures


Government should listen to the citizen’s opinion.


Issue and Opponent: On Thursday, November 24, 2022, a fire started on the 15th floor of an apartment complex in Ürümqi, the capital of a western Chinese province called Xinjiang. Government estimates of the casualties put the number of dead at 10 and injured at 9, but residents dispute those figures and say the real toll was higher. The residents in the building were under lockdown for over 100 days when the fire broke out as part of China’s zero-COVID policy. The fire appeared to act as a catalyst for searing public anger over China’s measures to combat COVID after videos emerged that seemed to suggest lockdown measures delayed firefighters from reaching the victims. Frustration is boiling just over a month after Xi secured a third term at the helm of China’s Communist Party, and much of the anger is being directed at China’s leader.
Dilemma Action: The day after the fire, protests started not only in Xinjiang but in multiple cities across the country. Thousands have taken to protesting both online and in the streets, calling for the government to ease up on the country’s strict COVID prevention measures. On dozens of university campuses, students demonstrated or put up protest posters. In many parts of the country, residents in locked-down neighborhoods tore down barriers and took to the streets. Surrounding a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers, and placards, the crowd held up blank sheets of white paper, in what is traditionally a symbolic protest against censorship, and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.” Rows of police officers, who initially looked on from the outside, started to move in to push back and divide the crowd around 3 a.m., sparking tense face-offs with the protesters. Videos on Chinese social media, like WeChat and Weibo, showed hundreds of people at an intersection shouting “Release the people!” in a demand for the police to free detained demonstrators. Other videos showed chaotic scenes of police pushing, dragging, and beating protesters.
Outcome: China’s information censors blocked most of the critical posts about the fire by tamping down specific hashtags and keywords. Though the protests made headlines in international media, Chinese state media carried stories and opinion pieces stressing the severity of the Covid outbreak and the need to persevere with methods to stamp it out. Mass demonstrations had spread to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Wuhan, where thousands of residents called for not only an end to Covid restrictions but more remarkably, political freedoms. Authorities eased some regulations, apparently to try to quell public anger, but the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger coronavirus strategy. Chinese stocks fell sharply as investors raised concerns over the impact of the protests on the world’s second-largest economy.


Accountability / Corruption
Human rights


Banners/posters/displayed communications


Wearing of symbols



9 / 12

(CONC) Concessions were made

(MC) Media Coverage

(MSYMP) Media coverage was sympathetic to the activists

(OR) Opponent response

(PS) Dilemma action built sympathy with the public

(PUN) Punishment favored the activists

(REFR) Dilemma action reframed the narrative of the opponent

(RF) Dilemma action reduced fear and/or apathy among the activists

(SA) Dilemma action appealed to a broad segment of the public


3 / 3

Activist group continued working together after the action

Encouraged more participants to join the movement

Internally replicated by the same movement


Project documentation

Dilemma Actions Coding Guidebook

Case study documentation


CC BY 4.0 Deed, Attribution 4.0 International


Wei, Lingling, Brian Spegele, and Wenxin Fan. 2022. “Chinese Protests Spread Over Government’s Covid Restrictions.” The Wall Street Journal, November 28. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinese-protests-spread-over-governments-covid-restrictions-11669516403

Gan, Nectar. 2022.”Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy.” CNN, November 28. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/26/china/china-protests-xinjiang-fire-shanghai-intl-hnk/index.html

https://apple.news/Aj0-Of7QvTGqcEOyLJXpO6Q. Accessed April 15, 2022.

https://apple.news/AvgPkIXa5Q5aJAmbPsGaOTA. Accessed April 15, 2022.

Davidson, Helen and Verna Yu. 2022. “Clashes in Shanghai as protests over zero-Covid policy grip China.” The Guardian, November 27. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/28/clashes-in-shanghai-as-protests-over-zero-covid-policy-grip-china?CMP=oth_b-aplnews_d-1

Soo, Zen. 2022. “China reports 2 new COVID deaths as some restrictions eased.” Ap News, December 4. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/health-travel-business-beijing-fa1c43206ebd6d75a4de4b8cc8d75a59

Kang, Dake and Huizhong Wu. 2022. “At Shanghai vigil, bold shout for change preceded crackdown.” Ap News, December 3. Retrieved July 22, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/health-china-xi-jinping-shanghai-covid-b85c65c576b9326c012a19422ae2dc82

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