YDSA Needs to Support Chinese Student Organizers

Chinese international students are activating at unprecedented levels. YDSA must connect with and support these efforts across the country.

Last month, Foxconn factory workers in Zhengzhou escaped lockdown and walked home on foot. A few weeks ago, before the 20th Party Congress, a man performed a banner drop on Beijing’s Sitong Bridge. Last week, a building under lockdown in Ürümchi caught fire and Uyghur residents, one as young as three years old, perished. There is still no official count of the deceased. 

Through Telegram channels and social media posts, hundreds of thousands of students everywhere are postering demands from Sitong Bridge, hosting vigils, and speaking up. For many, it’s their first time. Inspired by mobilizations back home, Chinese students abroad are organizing against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Many are engaging with Hong Kong, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Taiwanese activists through a new lens. 

YDSAers across the country are in a position to offer experience and resources to support these new organizers. It is vital to establish cross-border solidarity and strengthen our understanding of what the fight for socialism means. This is a critical opportunity to amplify the socialists organizing on the ground

Foxconn, under “closed-loop production” as a part of the CCP zero-COVID strategy, trapped migrant workers under brutal working conditions. Already notorious for labor abuses, Foxconn kept workers captive without medical care and basic necessities while preventing them from leaving and forcing them to continue to work. Reports note that on-site dormitories and quarantine facilities were in squalid condition, forcing some workers to sleep on workshop floors. The Ürümchi building that caught on fire was barricaded by zero-COVID authorities and fire escapes were padlocked, as is standard practice for lockdowns. Fire services could not navigate the blocked streets in reasonable time to help those trapped inside. 

Mass protests following these labor and human rights violations have been met with carceral response in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, and more, and many civilians are now political prisoners. In an environment of constant surveillance and censorship, protesters turn to holding up blank A4 sheets of paper, leading to the name #A4Revolution — there’s no need to write anything on it. Online, netizens use only ‘positive’ characters and phrases due to stringent censorship; despite their textual illegibility, the meaning behind the seemingly nonsensical comments is obvious to everyone. 

Make no mistake, these Chinese anti-zero-COVID policy protesters are not the same as the American anti-mask or Canadian convoy protestors. Foxconn supplies Apple and Amazon — there’s an immediate link for labor organizers to connect internationally on workers rights. These workers were dehumanized and forced to continue production to line the pockets of bosses. The “996” work culture (9am–9pm, six days a week) is also an oft cited grievance in slogans. As socialist organizers, we must pay attention to the flow of global capital that oppresses workers everywhere. It’s imperative that we resist the sinophobic narratives that seek to reinforce US militarism. We also need to understand that the CCP is co-opting racial narratives when officials brand all criticism as sinophobic. We must stand up for all workers across arbitrary borders. 

A group of diaspora progressives in the United States organizing against the US-China conflict, the Dove and Crane Collective, stated: “Only through grassroots international solidarity between US and Chinese civil societies can we find collective solutions against neoliberal globalization. 

YDSA members can support international students on their campuses. International students face more legal danger with their visas, especially if they don’t have the resources on how to interact with police. There are few protections in place, glaringly absent from university institutions, to prevent those that speak up from being deported or threatened by governments back home. YDSA members who know how to organize rallies, how to navigate school policies and the material resources available on campus, and which radical media services to talk to, are in a position to offer invaluable support that will help sustain this movement locally and abroad. 

We can do more: attend a vigil, follow along social media channels like @whatsup_beijing to look out for actions and posters at your school, share your support, or talk to a classmate. There are small, actionable steps that we can take to make sure that we welcome and help new organizers activated in this specific moment to grow the socialist movement everywhere.