Huanjie Li, 26, couldn’t be more worried about her family. And she was never worried about sharing that fear with them.
Ms. Li, who grew up in northeastern China and moved to Queens more than six years ago, has not spoken to her relatives abroad since the mass demonstrations began there.
“I don’t want them to be mistakenly flagged as foreigners trying to talk about China’s national safety,” said Ms. Li.
as such The biggest protests Since the Tiananmen Square uprisings of 1989 erupted across China, Chinese in New York and the wider diaspora have been watching and waiting.
The concern is the most important. They fear that as lockdowns return, their families will never have enough to eat again. They wait for friends to appear online after attending demonstrations. They are trying to communicate and evade Chinese social media censorship algorithms.
But they can’t openly share their concerns with the people they love in China, or even talk about the protests. Although the Internet is censored in the country Struggling to contain Swelling of discontent on the Internet, as they say, is risky.
Ms. Lee said, “We just say: ‘Be careful’ or ‘Do you have enough to eat? We repeat it over and over again. I don’t know if they understand what I’m trying to say.”
At the start of the pandemic, she tried to share information with her family about the lockdowns. They quickly dissolved a group chat. You think they were afraid. Now, they don’t communicate much anymore.
“It could cause safety concerns if the chat is leaked or vetted by national security,” it said. “No one is necessarily bothering us. But this fear is rooted in our daily lives.”
Understand the protests in China
Protests began in China after the deadly Residential building fire In the far west of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, the tragedy of many is linked to the Covid lockdowns. Protesters are calling on the government to ease up on its relentless “zero Covid” policy. Some have taken a bolder step, challenging the authoritarian government more directly and calling for Xi Jinping, the supreme leader, to step down.
Across New York City in recent days, residents with ties to China said censorship there exacerbated the unique complexities of speaking across generations. Some said that their parents were in Tiananmen Square, but they don’t know their politics now.
“We are talking about a totalitarian regime,” said Vincent Gao, Ph.D. Student of Italian at Yale University, born in China. “You don’t really know what your parents think about a particular issue. You don’t know if they actually bought the system’s propaganda.”
He said the argument wouldn’t be worth it – they live too far away. And it wouldn’t be safe to have an open conversation anyway. Instead, he asks uncomplicated questions: Are you okay? Is there food in the house? How is your health?
“I’m not going to ask my parents: What do you think of ‘Zero Covid’? What do you think of the lockdown? What do you think of Xi Jinping?” said Mr. Zhao. You will expose them to unnecessary risks. What are they going to say?”
Instead, supporters of the protesters in China are taking part in solidarity demonstrations. In New York City, a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered outside the Chinese consulate one night last week. At times, the crowd called on Mr. Xi to step down.
“It’s a constant stream of anger,” said Mr. Gao, who attended the demonstration. “It’s desperation about what will happen to my country, to the people I love, to the country I love.”
The demonstrators also gathered in Other Chinese Consulates and Embassies around the world, from London to Toronto, from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. hold a lot Blank pieces of paperlike the protesters in China, symbolize censorship.
For the Uighurs in the diaspora, protesting against China’s government is nothing new. Since 2017, China has been holding Hundreds of thousands of people In concentration camps targeting Muslim minorities. Uyghur activists outside China have spoken out against the detentions, which the United Nations said may amount to crimes against humanity. Recently, the Uighurs have sought to draw attention to the long confinement of people in the Xinjiang region: Much of the region had been under lockdown for more than 100 days before the fire broke out in Urumqi.
Anker Uygur, 24, was born in Urumqi and lived there until he was seven years old. He fled to the United States in 2006 with his immediate family, but the rest of his family remains in Xinjiang.
He said his family was threatened. Strange men called his mother on video chat from his grandparents’ house. He said he supposedly has family in the camps, but communication is so difficult that he doesn’t know for sure.
But Mr. Uygur said he was also amazed at the reaction of the Chinese people around him. He said the lockdowns have created unprecedented loneliness. For the first time, they are mourning the death of people in Xinjiang next to him.
“Even the Chinese nationals are starting to talk loudly,” he said. “That’s what’s different this time. I’m not alone in protesting. It’s not just me and my people — it’s all the people of China.”
Since the protests began, few expats have slept soundly. Many have described unsettled dreams. Some of them were specific: fears that the protests were a trap set by the Chinese Communist Party.
An architecture graduate student, who grew up in Guandong Province, has not returned to China for three years. (She asked to be known only by her last name: Liu. She was afraid her family would be able to Face revenge if the campaign intensifies.)
“There were 10 days of mandatory quarantine, and I only had 20 days of rest,” said Ms. Liu, 26, with tears in her eyes. She used to come back once a year in the winter. She said, but she couldn’t take much time.
Guilt runs rampant, too. Many Chinese in the United States have received Western vaccinations, namely More effective than homemade shots. They don’t have to undergo agonizing daily Covid tests or worse yet spend months indoors.
“It’s like survivor’s guilt,” said Tiger, an artist from Shanghai who asked that his last name not be published.
Tiger, 38, said, “People I know in Shanghai, they have to go through lockdowns. I don’t know. I feel like I’m running away from this. But am I? Am I not brave enough?”
When Shanghai went into lockdown in April, his parents were visiting him in New York. Rather than enduring crushing months of confinement with 25 million other Shanghainese, they spent the spring together, relieved to be able to move about freely.
A few weeks ago, as the number of cases soared and China began to implement lockdowns again, he felt nauseous. His parents returned to Shanghai. They are in their sixties. have high blood pressure; They need daily medication.
Then, as he watched the protests fill the neighborhood in which he grew up, he woke up restless again. It’s exciting, but who’s going to take care of his parents if something happens?
“You don’t know what will happen tomorrow, especially after all the protests,” he said. “You could have a lockdown tomorrow. You could have something worse than a lockdown. We just don’t know.”