Peng Lifa, who hung banners with anti-Xi-Jinping slogans on a bridge in Beijing, is in jail but remains the man the CCP is most afraid of.
by Hu Zimo
Bitter Winter and, to tell the truth with some delay, large-circulation Western media such as The New York Times may acknowledge Peng Lifa, a.k.a. Peng Zaizhou (彭载舟), the man who on October 13 managed to hang two banners with anti-Xi-Jinping slogans on Beijing’s Sitong Bridge, as a hero. The Times called him a “prophet” and “the man who lighted the spark in the darkness,” while acknowledging that after he was arrested, he disappeared. His whereabouts are unknown and we can only hope he is still alive.
However, it is an entirely different matter to hail Peng Lifa, or even simply refer to him, in China. Just ask Xiao Liang, an artist from Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province. He painted a simple portrait of Peng Lifa and posted it on Twitter, without comments. Xiao was detained, and has now been formally arrested. Somebody, presumably from the police, got access to his Twitter account and, to be on the safer side, deleted all his posts and eliminated all his followers, although Twitter is officially blocked in China.
Xiao was popular on social media for his dramatic portraits. He had escaped arrest when he posted earlier a homage to Ukrainian female soldiers and a portrait of Ukrainian President Zelensky, calling him an “anti-fascist hero” and challenging the official Chinese narrative on the Ukrainian war.
The whereabouts of Xiao are also unknown.
Peng Lifa’s protest was indeed unprecedented, and led to what non-Chinese may regard as a paranoid surveillance of all the thousands of bridges existing in Beijing and other main cities. He has becoming the “Bridge Man,” and has been compared to the “Tank Man” of the iconic image of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre of 1989.
Last month, the police was not able to prevent hundreds of students from gathering under Sitong Bridge with the famous white paper sheets in their hands, chanting the name of Peng Lifa. These protests eventually compelled the regime to revise the Zero COVID policy, but also made it extremely sensitive to any reference to Peng Lifa.