'Remove the dictator Xi Jinping': Images show rare protest in Beijing

This photo taken on October 13, 2022 shows banners hanging on the Sitong Bridge in Haidan, northwest of Beijing.
This photo taken on October 13, 2022 shows banners hanging on the Sitong Bridge in Haidan, northwest of Beijing. © Twitter / Observers

Despite online censorship, photos and videos shared online show a rare protest against the Chinese government in Beijing. The dramatic demonstration took place on a highway bridge on October 13, just days before the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party convenes. The protest seems to have been initiated by just one person, who has been widely praised online.


Two banners with a protest message were hung on the Sitong Bridge (geolocation here), which overlooks a busy thoroughfare in northwest Beijing, on Thursday morning, October 13. In the centre, a plume of black smoke rises into the air.

The left banner reads: "We don't want Covid tests, we want to eat; we don't want lockdown, but freedom, no lies, but dignity [...] No longer slaves to be citizens". The one on the left says: "Students, workers, people [...] remove the dictator Xi Jinping". You can see a man standing on the bridge behind the banners.

The scene from another angle, filmed from a car coming in from the left, with smoke rising from the bridge and the two banners.

Images showing the scene from different angles have caused a stir on Chinese social networks Weibo and WeChat. The images are now impossible to find on these networks, even by entering specific keywords such as the name of the bridge where the scene took place, as reported by China Digital Times, which tested several.

The images continue to circulate on foreign social networks, primarily Twitter, where some claim that their Weibo accounts were censored after they shared images of the event. 

Protests of this kind are rare in China and can result in heavy penalties, especially when they target a leader. The event also took place just before the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which will be held on October 16 in the capital. Xi Jinping is expected to win a third term as party general secretary, and, by extension, president of China. 

We were unable to confirm the circumstances surrounding the protest or how the person behind it was able to put up the banners in the heavily policed city of Beijing. 

Deutsche Welle reported that an Associated Press reporter went to the scene late Thursday and saw no banners, but did see a black mark on the edge of the bridge, presumably related to the fire. According to him, there was a strong police presence at the site until the end of the day. According to the Chinese police, nothing "unusual" had happened.

However, other footage of the event shows police officers removing a person from the bridge and removing the banners. 

The BBC has reported that one person was arrested in conjunction with the protests. 

A video of the bridge shared on Twitter shows firefighters and police arresting a person and taking down the banners. The origin of the smoke is also visible.