Freedom House released a report on November 14, tracking the frequency and diversity of dissent in China. It is the first quarterly report generated by Freedom House’s new database and research tool – The China Dissent Monitor (CDM).
The report states that despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly repressive rule, civil protests are taking place daily and are widespread, challenging the regime.
According to this report, 668 instances of dissent took place in China from June to September 2022, both offline and online. Offline events, such as demonstrations, strikes, and occupations, accounted for 95% of dissent events, with 636 cases. Hebei Province dominated the nationwide protests with 77 events, followed closely by Henan with 72 events. Guangdong and Shaanxi ranked third with 49 cases each.
Regarding the size of the offline events, 60% had 10 to 99 participants, 18% attracted 2 to 9 participants, and 7% saw between 100 and 999. The assessed time period recorded nearly 9,000 people engaged in offline dissent.
The top reason for protests was the delayed housing projects, with over a third of events or 215 cases. Labor rights violations and fraud were next in line, with 109 and 105 cases, respectively. Other grievances, such as building quality, school district disputes, COVID-19 policies, and corruption, were shown below 43 cases.
For online dissent, 18 online hashtag movements were recorded, each involving thousands of users posting about an issue critical of the regime or powerful private actors. Ten instances were popular or viral posts on Weibo, WeChat, or other social media, including posts of the Chinese character “8964,” a reference to the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre. The remaining cases were cyber demonstrations, one of which involved internet users posting “It’s my duty” on June 4. It referred to a famous quote from a student interviewed on the way to Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The report documented evidence of at least a quarter of all cases facing repression. The most frequent form of reprisal occurring in 75 cases was violence by state or non-state actors against protesters.
CDM said its statistics were likely an undercount due to Chinese authorities’ information control and media censorship. The actual frequency of the protests should be much higher.
Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, said, “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.”
He added, “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.” Kevin Slaten, research lead for the China Dissent Monitor said, “Dissent in China is vibrant and widespread, both offline and online.” He went on to say, “We hope that the China Dissent Monitor elevates the voices and stories of people in China so they are heard around the world.”