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The Great Vanishing Act: China crackdown on protesters leaves audience in suspense

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China’s zero-Covid rules end with a whimper and the arrest of protesters

As China emerges from the pandemic and shifts its focus to economic growth, the landmark protests against the zero-Covid rules that led to the end of the restrictions have started to fade from memory. However, in a deepening crackdown on dissenters, many of those who took part in the demonstrations have been taken by the authorities, and thousands of protesters have gone missing. In the so-called White Paper protests, they held up blank white sheets to demonstrate their opposition to restrictive Covid policies, which was a rare show of criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping. While police made few arrests at the time, the authorities have since detained scores of protesters, including writers, journalists, a musician, a teacher, and a financial industry professional, on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Their friends insist they were not activists, but rather a group of young people concerned about society, human rights and the rights of the vulnerable. While international rights groups and foreign universities have called for their release, the authorities have not responded to queries on the detentions.

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