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'Bridge Man': The daring dissident who toppled China's COVID lockdowns by 'sacrificing' himself

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been the ruling party in China for nearly 75 years. For those living there, this has meant limited individual rights, far-reaching governmental control and virtually no freedom of expression. 

Life under the CCP, in a word, is oppressive.

Beijing’s autocratic tactics ramped up even more during the coronavirus pandemic when it implemented severe travel restrictions, lockdown measures, testing requirements and forced quarantining. 

Though not everyone living in China has stood by and accepted the CCP’s oppressive standard of living, critics of the regime have often paid a price for dissidence with their lives. 

On Oct. 13, 2022, a man dressed in a yellow hard hat and orange shirt hung a banner on Sitong Bridge in Beijing that said, “We want food, not COVID testing. We want reform, not the Cultural Revolution. We want freedom, not lockdowns. We want to vote, not a leader. We want dignity, not lies. We are citizens, not slaves.” 

A separate banner also hung that said, “Depose the traitorous dictator Xi Jinping” while a loudspeaker reportedly read out the banner’s commentary.

“He didn’t plan his escape at all. He was trying to buy as much time as possible to expose [the demonstration] for the public,” Xiao Qiang, a human rights activist, founder and chief editor of China Digital Times and a research scientist for UC Berkeley School of Information, where he researches the CCP and censorship, told Fox News Digital. 

The massacre was the result of the CCP’s response to student protesters demanding political freedoms and the measures Chinese military forces took to crack down and enforce martial law.

The Chinese government claimed some 200 people were killed in the clashes, though a British diplomatic cable released in 2017 suggested that figure was closer to 10,000. 

Tank Man’s identity has never been revealed, and the uncertainty surrounding his whereabouts has led many to believe he was arrested by the CCP or disappeared, a fate many fear Peng faces. 

“Peng Lifa stood up to Xi Jinping, all alone with just a piece of cloth and some paint. And he won,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., the chairman of the House Select Committee on the CCP, told Fox News Digital. 

“His protest kicked off demonstrations around China, his words went viral being passed by AirDrop and on bathroom walls. And he inspired the ‘white paper’ protesters who ultimately toppled the techno-totalitarian zero-COVID lockdowns. 

“It was the greatest embarrassment of Xi Jinping in his career.” 

CHINA PROTESTS GARNER MUTED REACTIONS FROM WORLD LEADERS, UN

“His final action is an incredible piece of not only planning but commitment — sacrificing his own life to do this,” Xiao said. “But he didn’t do that out of impulse.”

Ahead of the Bridge Man protest, Peng sent a booklet or manifesto around to a handful of human rights activists and CCP dissidents through his Twitter account, encouraging them to take further action to stand up to the Chinese government. 

“But he put them together and put his life on it to sort of personalize this … Chinese resistance,” Xiao added. “He is truly the face of the courage and the resistance.”

The language used during the Bridge Man protest matched that of the manifesto that Peng sent to Xiao and others, which is how human rights groups and Chinese dissidents were able to verify Bridge Man’s identity. 

Almost immediately, Xiao realized the significance of the protest and began working with his team to archive Peng’s manifesto to not only preserve his story, but to block the CCP from allowing his identity to again go missing like that of Tank Man. 

“There have been alarming reports that have detailed the crackdown on white paper protesters around China,” Gallagher told Fox News Digital.  “My view is if the world turns its back on the peaceful white paper protesters and Peng Lifa now, the CCP will know it can still get away with brutalities like Tiananmen Square.

“The CCP wants to erase the memory of Bridge Man and the white paper protests because they show that the Chinese people are willing to stand up to authoritarianism and demand freedom.” 

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