#NotMyPresident Posters On Campus Protest China16 July 2018
Posters protesting against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent abolition of the term limit were found around campus at the University of Melbourne.
In early March, #NotMyPresident posters were found on the column outside Baillieu Library and on the notice boards in Union House.
Chinese students studying abroad in Western countries started the #NotMyPresident movement. They explained that they started this campaign because they felt “the responsibility to let more people know about the current situation in China as well as to encourage young Chinese overseas to voice out their opinions.”
This protest harks back to the “Not My President” slogan recently popularised as a result of the 2017 American presidential election of Donald Trump.
Farrago spoke with Ma*, a Chinese science student at Melbourne University. He put up some of the posters outside Baillieu Library after finding out about the movement through his friends’ retweets.
While he expressed similar concerns about the abolition of the term limit, Ma was cynical for both the campaign and the current situation in China.
“Some people asked me what I can achieve by doing this but for the people that don’t know about this, it’s a reminder to them that China is not a normal country, not like Australia… So it’s awareness,” said Ma.
However, Ma remains cynical about the movement’s efficiency: “I don’t think it’s very effective in any way. There’s no way it can be effective. But sometimes it just feels good to give them a finger.”
However, the founders of the movement expressed their hope that the “campaign could to some extents tell Chinese that it’s time to throw away political indifference and care about what is happening in our country.”
One Chinese student at Melbourne University, who wished to stay anonymous, opened up about China’s political atmosphere, telling Farrago: “On one hand I can see there is economic improvement, on the other hand I think the political and democratic development is much worse than before. I love my country, but I don’t think the current situation is good.”
Ma too expressed his frustration. “I am seriously disgusted by him [Xi Jinping]. All of us actually knew that he was going to cancel his presidential term limits—we’ve been joking about him being the emperor of China for a couple years now.”
“He got into power in 2012 and I was talking about it since 2015. But I mean, he still did it. A day later, he still got re-elected into the presidency with two thousand votes or something and with no votes against him. So it’s kind of like going back to the 50s.” Xi was elected unanimously on March 17 this year, six days after China abolished presidential terms.
Privacy and safety remain a concern for Chinese students who wish to speak out.
Ma said he had two of his Chinese social media accounts deleted by the government after posting political messages, including content related to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Chinese students are afraid of publically voicing political opinions, according to Ma. “I had a friend that went with me … [when] I was picking up the posters. I said, I’m going to take these posters and stick them up, come with me. He didn’t want to but I insisted so he stayed 10 metres away from me when I did it. He was scared. Of course he doesn’t like Xi Jinping but he’s also afraid of the consequences that he might face.”
“It’s quite serious actually, if you do it in China and get caught. There are a lot of spies—I’m pretty sure there are Chinese spies in universities too,” said Ma.
Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) did not comment on the issue when approached. The Australia-China Youth Association also declined to comment.
“We definitely know that the majority of Chinese students tend to reserve their opinions on the issue … and we fully understand that,” said the founders of #NotMyPresident.
“Considering the nationalist education we received in China and organisations like CSSA abroad monitoring students, we know how much it takes to just step up and post a piece of paper onto the bulletin board in the hallway. So far, we have not encountered any threats directly from Chinese government. They just blocked the news of the campaign as usual”.
The number of participants is unknown, according to the founders of the movement. However, they have counted around 30 campuses worldwide who have engaged in the poster campaign, with different groups of students putting up posters in the Melbourne University campus.
*Ma is the surname of a Chinese UniMelb student who does not wish for his first name to be used in the article as to not incite any negative comments towards him.