Protest Banner in Beijing Calls Xi Jinping Dictator and National Traitor; China Refuses to Call off Zeor-Covid Policy

Two harshly worded protest protest banners targeting Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared on an overpass in Beijing city on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the all-important Party Congress is slated to begin.

The wide consensus is that Xi, who has been President for 10 years now, will be handed another five-year term. There has been a buildup within the party suggesting that Xi is on course to being declared president for life.

China protest
China protest Twitter/ Selina Wang

The protest banners specifically deals with the draconian Covid-19 measures that China continues to slap on large chunks of populations. One of the banners reads: "Say no to Covid test, yes to food. No to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity."

The banner then specifically targets Xi's alleged autocratic ambitions. "No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to great leader, yes to vote. Don't be a slave, be a citizen."

Another banner directly calls Xi a dictator. "Go on strike, remove dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping," it reads.

Images circulating on Chinese social media showed a plume of smoke rising from the bridge. CNN reported that it has been able to geolocate the place as Sitong Bridge in Beijing's Third Ring Road in Haidian district.

The protest banners were quickly removed by the security personnel and no protesters were seen. Images and news of the protest act swiftly gained traction on Chinese social media under the hashtags #Beijing and #Haidian, but they were heavily censored subsequently.

Xi's Third Term

Though it looks like Xi has complete control over the party, reports also show lingering doubts about the direction of the party and the state under the total grip of one leader. While most observers believe Xi's supporters will seek to anoint him president for life, there are some who think that's a stretch. And yet some others think there is no guarantee that he will complete a full third term of five years.

China growth target 2016
China's national flag is seen in front of a poster explaining the design of new 100 yuan banknote at a branch of a commercial bank at a business district in Beijing, China, January 21, 2016 Reuters

"When all's said and done, it's a logical impossibility for [Xi] to go from victory to victory [indefinitely] ... Victories always come to an end," says political scholar Xu Guang, according to Radio Free Asia.

"There will be a lot of bargaining ... I think the most likely [outcome] is that he serves another five years at least," he added.

PM Li Keqiang on Way Out, Politburo Composition Will Change

Xi is all but certain to pure powerful party rival Li Keqiang, who is currently the prime minister of China. The Xi allies, the hugely dominant party faction is also certain to handpick the next politburo in such a way that it rubber-stamps Xi's stay in power irrespective of term limits.

The removal of Keqiang is a near certain development as the current prime minister has unwittingly positioned himself on the opposite side of Xi's faction. Keqiang openly supports the "reform and opening up" policy but Xi has been moving away from this approach in recent years. A host of politburo members are well over the age limit of 68, and Xi, 69, will take this opportunity to remove the ageing leadership and fill the positions with his young loyalists.

China Refuses to Lift Zero-Covid Measures

Following the rare protests, China refused to re-examine its Zero-Covid policy, under which huge cities that are the engines of growth have been under near total lockdown for months.

"We have been working to beat the pandemic but at this stage, from a scientific point of view, it is difficult to say definitively in which month we will have reached this standard," Liang Wannian, who heads China's expert panel on COVID-19, said, according to the South China Morning Post.