Chinese students at American universities protest China’s ‘zero COVID’ policy

Chinese students at MIT, NYU, and GWU recently launched campaigns protesting the Chinese government’s extreme COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Campus Reform interviewed one of the Chinese international students involved in posting flyers at Emory.

Chinese students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU), Emory University, and George Washington University (GWU) recently launched campaigns protesting the Chinese government’s extreme COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Students posted flyers on their respective campuses referencing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “zero COVID“ strategy. 

Images of flyers at Emory University were also obtained by Campus Reform.

The flyers call attention to the Xinjiang region fireCOVID quarantine bus accident, and other deaths attributed to restrictions and lockdowns. Other flyers criticized President Xi Jinping, asking that he and the CCP “step down.”

Campus Reform interviewed one of the Chinese international students involved in posting flyers at Emory. The student requested to remain anonymous over concerns for their personal safety. 

“[C]ompared to the people in China protesting now, the risk I took is much lower,” the student told Campus Reform

Chinese students at GWU allege on one of the flyers that a network of CCP spies quell dissidents organizing on college campuses. Their allegations reflect a larger trend on American college campuses. According to ProPublica, Chinese intelligence officers use “online surveillance and an array of informants” to identify students who speak unfavorably about the CCP and intimidate their families back in China. 

In China, individuals dubbed dissidents face punishment from the Chinese government. Anti-communist activists in China disappear, are held at psychiatric wards, and have their families threatened and trapped in their homes. 

Posters at George Washington University were torn down, the Athenai Institute reports on its Twitter. Athenai Institute is a “student-founded, bipartisan nonprofit leading the movement for universities to divest from the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities.”

Sometimes, the censorship of anti-CCP messaging even comes from university administrators. 

During the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, for example, GWU President Mark Wrighton “vowed to identify and expose those who posted Olympics-themed art on campus criticizing China’s human rights record,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Wrighton issued a statement the next week calling his responses “mistakes.”  

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Flyers at Emory belong to the “white paper revolution,” a movement sparked by the Xinjiang fire that uses blank sheets of paper to represent mourning and censorship. 

The anonymous Emory University student Campus Reform spoke with stated that “Chinese people should have the human and political rights and welfare as the people of many other countries already have.” 

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Other references to human rights issues include the GWU flyers criticizing the CCP’s “genocidal mass imprisonment of Uighurs,” over a million of whom are in Chinese “reeducation” camps. 

The anonymous student holds onto the conviction “that China should be a modern, democratic and constitutional country that respects its own tradition and culture.” 

“Only a couple years ago, there were patriotic rallies supporting the Chinese government, but now it’s the opposite,” they stated.

“Through these protests, people will learn that the government is not as strong and intimidating as they think it is, and they will gain experience of how to organize themselves.”

Campus Reform contacted GWU, Emory, NYU, and MIT along with their respective Chinese student organizations for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.