Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Giant surveillance camera spies a man. No secrets, no privacy concept. 3D rendering
Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Protest in China: “Don’t Want” and “Old Hen” Take On New Meaning

When former President Hu Jintao was escorted out of the Party Congress a couple of days ago, all reference to the matter disappeared from the official web

Recently, we have been following the creative protest methods used in China, in the wake of the Chinese Communist party’s five-year meeting that confirmed Xi Jinping for an unusual third term, while the former president Hu Jintao was escorted out by security. A much harder line on many things, including foreign affairs, is expected to follow.

Because China is a very high-tech surveillance state, it is difficult for citizens to use usual online communication methods to discuss, register dissatisfaction with, or express worry over government decisions. The unconventional methods adopted are worth noting.

Free Asia Radio reports that two young women were walking down a street in Shanghai, holding a white banner that read “Don’t want, want — Don’t want, want — Don’t want, want.”

The above-mentioned video has been circulated on the Internet and has attracted attention. Some netizens said that the girl was passing on the message of the incident of hanging banners on the Sitong Bridge in Beijing.

News, “Two girls protest with banners on Xiangyang North Road, Shanghai” at RFA (October 24, 2022)

A Chinese-speaking observer tells us that this echoes “Bridge Man”’s slogan. “The slogan on the banner on the bridge was translated to English as: No to Covid-19 testing, Yes to Food; No to lock-down, Yes to Freedom” etc., however, literal translation is ‘don’t want covid-19 testing, want food; don’t want lock-down, want freedom,’ etc.”

The fate of the girls is unknown.

The same observer also told Mind Matters News of another story, involving hens. A website offering chickens for sale suddenly received many messages like “We do not want to buy old hen with elementary education” (a clear reference to Xi).

Then came the message “Can I ride the old hen passing the bridge with four overpasses?” (“Sitong” is the name of the bridge where “Bridge Man” made his famous protest. But it can mean “four overpasses”).

And there were “Is your old hen attending meetings?” as well as “Is your old hen to be enthroned?” and “Please get off the bus, old hen.”

These were all understood, of course, to be attacks on Xi’s dominance and his new powers. The site was closed down.

The story does not appear to be on China Digital Times any longer. But this sort of thing is likely representative of the way people communicate when they must stay ahead of machine surveillance.

How systematic is online censorship in China? As noted above, in a remarkable moment, Hu Jintao was escorted out of the Party Congress a few days ago:

Here’s what happened when Chinese citizens tried to discuss the event:

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo, a few social media users alluded to the incident by commenting on old posts featuring Hu, a common tactic used to evade cyberspace censors.

By Saturday evening, however, the comments section of almost all Weibo posts containing Hu’s name were no longer visible, according to a Reuters review.

State media coverage of the ceremony did not include the scene, which occurred as journalists were entering the hall.

The official CCTV evening news coverage of Saturday’s congress closing ceremony included footage with Hu, as normal, from before the incident.

Hu Jintao escorted out of party congress” at Reuters (October 22, 2022)

Health issues were blamed.

Clearly, considerable stealth and cleverness will continue to be needed for the discussion of any pressing political issues within China.

You may also wish to read:

“Bridge Man” crackdown in China inspires new types of protest. Some use Apple Airdrop, some use flash graffiti in public washrooms, with the basic message that Xi JinPing should retire. Chinese citizens abroad — as well as at home — take significant risks if they choose to speak out but some do so now anyway.


Words disappear from the Chinese language — online at least Beijing seeks to scrub all mention of any words that could be associated with a lone protester hanging a banner on a bridge. If you knew all the words and music that had suddenly been banned, you might easily guess the nature of the event. That’s a perennial pitfall of censorship.

Mind Matters News

Breaking and noteworthy news from the exciting world of natural and artificial intelligence at MindMatters.ai.

Protest in China: “Don’t Want” and “Old Hen” Take On New Meaning