BEIJING (Reuters) – Authorities in Beijing have dismissed reports of rare protest banners from an overpass in China, even when footage showed otherwise on social media Thursday, just days before the start of a Communist Party congress.
The banners carried several slogans, including a call to oust President Xi Jinping and end tough COVID-19 policies, according to numerous images and videos circulating on Twitter, which is blocked in China.
According to the footage, smoke could be seen from the roadway above which the banners were hung in the Haidian district, northwest of Beijing.
The incident comes at a very sensitive time in the Chinese capital as authorities are on high alert ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s 20th Congress, where Xi is set to win a third term in office.
“We don’t want COVID tests, we want to eat; we don’t want bans, we want to be free,” read one.
China’s zero-COVID policy, which has resulted in frequent lockdowns and severe economic damage, has fueled widespread frustration in Chinese cities.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to their official WeChat account.
Search terms related to images and topic returned no results on the heavily censored Chinese Internet, although several indirect references could be found.
“She was a brave person in Beijing today,” one user wrote, adding several thumbs up and roses of support.
Hu Xijin, former editor of the Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times and top commentator, tweeted on Thursday: “China is currently stable, especially its capital Beijing…Beijing has no public discontent caused by the control diseases like some peripheral places in China.”