China has failed to completely stamp out dissent within its borders, according to a new analysis from the nonprofit advocacy and research group Freedom House documenting protests across the country.
Digital repression has made China the worst country in Freedom House’s annual rankings of internet freedom, but protesters have found ways to rail against the communist regime.
“Contrary to what the Chinese Communist Party wants the world to believe, individuals throughout China are standing up to Beijing’s machine of censorship and repression to make their voices heard,” said Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz in a statement. “More Chinese people are taking the courageous step of exercising their fundamental rights to free expression and assembly — even achieving some concessions from private companies and local officials — which is rightly troubling to the ever-more oppressive party.”
Freedom House’s China Dissent Monitor recorded 668 “dissent events” from June to September of this year, with 95% of those events involving real-world actions such as demonstrations, strikes and occupations.
Thousands of people participated in those protests, with Freedom House’s analysis estimating at least 8,755 people demonstrated inside China. Approximately 7% of the protests had 100 to 999 people, while a majority, 60%, had 10 to 99 participants.
“Three-fourths of the events (521) CDM documented between June and September were offline group demonstrations, marches, and obstruction of roads or pathways,” Freedom House’s report said. “These are the modes of dissent that the state considers the most contentious and is most keen to repress and censor.”
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The China Dissent Monitor aims to gather data about offline collective action in China, as opposed to people organizing on social media and other digital platforms, to provide a window into ongoing protests amid restrictions on media and risks with capturing such demonstrations.
The top issues of the protesters involved complaints about housing, pay and benefits, and fraud, while COVID-19 restrictions yielded “large street demonstrations and online hashtag movements with hundreds of thousands of posts” in 14 provinces or cities.
Freedom House’s new data about the Chinese people’s attitude toward their government and about their quality of life comes as President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Monday.
After the meeting, Mr. Biden indicated he wanted to lessen the chance of conflict between the U.S. and China, but the communist regime has a fundamentally different view of freedom and the restrictions it wants to impose on people.
A newly declassified U.S. intelligence report from 2020 said last month that China has used cyberattacks, influence operations and data theft to expand its authoritarian control within its borders and around the world.
China has also allegedly taken physical action to disrupt protests abroad. According to a 2018 Politico report, the communist regime dispatched intelligence officers to San Francisco to marshal counter-protestors aimed at drowning out anti-China demonstrations surrounding the 2008 Olympic Torch Run.