Rain Rannu - Flickr

More and More Chinese Citizens Lose Trust in CCP Leadership

The Party’s Far-Reaching Control Stifles Many Natural Rights

April 16, 2024

A few years ago, in 2021, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrated the centennial of its founding. It is the legacy of one of the most daunting world powers. While bursts of fireworks marked this celebration, a shadow of fear lingers over the people of China.

Today, China is ruled by an authoritarian government, and more and more citizens are losing faith in their leaders. The Party seeks to silence any dissidents, and it censors any information considered harmful to its endeavors. Despite this milieu, the people of China seem to be increasingly pro-democracy and anti-party despite the hazards of such convictions.

The CCP seeks to establish cultural and ideological control over the world’s largest population. Anything resembling distrust or protest of the Party is quickly stamped out. Under the guise of COVID-19 safety precautions, the government banned public demonstrations in Hong Kong to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre, according to historian Andy B. Liu. The Tiananmen incident, one of the most controversial events in modern Chinese history, was formerly openly commemorated in the city. 

In spring 1989, demonstrators flooded Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. They demanded democratic norms, calling out the injustices of media censorship, restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the stifling of other liberties. On June 4th, troops opened fire on the civilians. The death toll has always been a point of contention. Several hundred, possibly several thousand, lost their lives.

The very things the Tiananmen demonstrators protested were used to cover up the story: censorship and regulation of public assembly. Decades have passed, but the tactics remain unchanged. Citizens’ motives to protest remain also.

In 2020, the people of Hong Kong came together for an annual pro-democracy rally, defying government regulations to not hold public gatherings exceeding 50 people Beijing stepped in and arrested numerous demonstrators.

Taiwan, although de facto independent, shares significant cultural heritage with the mainland as well as current economic ties. Taiwan’s trust in the CCP, however, is growing fairly slim. At a rally, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen stated, “We don’t want Hong Kong-style peace. We want dignified peace.” Such sentiment echoes the region’s general reaction to China’s 2020 crackdown.

That year, the well-known Chinese real-estate developer Ren Zhiqiang, who criticized the Party and called Xi “a clown who had no clothes,” was imprisoned for an 18-year sentence. It’s dangerous to speak out against China’s leaders, but citizens continue to do so. We just don’t see too many of them for too long. Zhiqiang was an outlier in that he was widely heard before his arrest and disappearance from public view. Alluding to Vladimir Putin’s public and ultimately lethal imprisonment of political rival, Aleksei A. Navalny, the New York Times columnist Li Yuan alleges there are thousands of similar cases in China hidden from public knowledge. 

In 2022, demonstrators protesting COVID-19 local lockdown policies took to the streets of China’s capital and other cities. They held blank sheets of paper, a metaphor for the country’s widespread censorship and the near illegality of political protest. The gatherings quickly became focused on broader liberties, calling for the practice of democratic principles. Some protesters eventually called for the removal of President Xi. AP called the movement “the most direct challenge to the Communist Party’s authority in decades.

Not only are inconvenient opinions in the public square discouraged, but what citizens communicate and consume via the media gets censored by the state or its affiliates. In China, the press is not just “the fourth estate” in name only. The media—what comes in and what goes out—is heavily filtered by the government.

Practically any media viewed by the Chinese public has been influenced by the Party. The Central Propaganda Department, an organization of the CCP, coordinates with its affiliates, to monitor all publicly available content.

The government forbids talking about the Tiananmen Square Massacre in the media or other forums, especially when it conflicts with the official story. For years, there’s been a desire to use the Internet liberally, demonstrated by Chinese citizens having begun to find ways to work around the far-reaching censorship.

Over 500 critical documents divulging the procedures of Chinese state-affiliated tech company i-Soon were leaked to GitHub in March. These show an extensive hacking scheme of monitoring and “harassing dissidents who publicly criticize the Chinese government.” Although the source of the leak is supposedly dissatisfied with i-Soon’s policies, the unknown whistleblower could be an unhappy employee or someone upset with the way i-Soon’s tech gets used.

The London-based Chinese journalist Xinran, who has devoted years to unearthing the hidden history of postwar China, says, “The surveillance of ordinary people is now commonplace. Xi’s China has become like 1984.”

From an outside perspective, the CCP’s hold over Chinese citizens seems to be failing under the strain of its ever-tightening grip.