Chinese international students are risking it all by protesting against the prospect of President Xi Jinping ruling indefinitely which would undeniably strengthen the authoritarian regime.
“Not my president” is the campaign Chinese students in Australia, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Argentina are fighting for, despite risking punishment upon their return to China.
International students are protesting against the proposal that would allow President Xi to rule indefinitely, over fears this would entrench the Communist Party’s school of thought deeper into the arts, media and minds of China, according to Hack, a current affairs radio show by the ABC-owned station Triple J.
“We’re facing retaliation from the Chinese Government once we’re exposed because there’ll be jail time without due process,” one student who is part of the movement told Hack.
— Xi's Not My President (@STOPXIJINPING) March 2, 2018
“We’re not Australian residents and we’re definitely going to turn back to China and that’s a huge security risk.”
The students are distributing posters with the words ‘NOT MY PRESIDENT’ written over Xi’s face, as well as protesting through the Twitter hashtag #notmypresident.
Chinese international students have a reputation for being politically inactive in response to the Communist Party’s actions, according to the New York Times. This is unsurprising given the arrests of people caught speaking up against the government on social media alone.
But the proposal of Xi ruling forever, regardless of the fact he was never democratically elected, pushed international students from China over the edge of silence.
“We’re in Western countries where free speech is protected and we think we’re morally obliged to do something, stand up and speak for our people,” the student involved told Hack.
The proposal of undisputed single leadership is adding salt into the barely healed wound left from former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s 25-year reign, according to Foreign Policy.
Between 1949 and 1976, Mao manipulated the country into voicelessness, before adopting drastic economic and social policies that left China stitching up economic, political and cultural scars in his wake.
After his death, China created a collective leadership model that essentially assured the population that a single authoritarian ruler would not be able to repeat the path of Mao. But now this is in jeopardy under the new proposal.
“I want to say to all of you out there who are listening… Please don’t let fear get to you. Because fear is what they use to manipulate you, definitely protect yourself to fight another day and express your ideas,” the student protesters told Hack.
The organisers of the campaign said to Foreign Policy: “We as a group of Chinese citizens overseas already enjoy the privilege to study and work in countries where free speech is not only protected but also encouraged.
“If we don’t speak up for our people at home, who would?”