TANKS have rolled onto the streets of China as Xi Jinping orders a clampdown on the ‘White Paper’ anti-lockdown protests.
Their appearance is a chilling echo of the Tiananmen Square massacre when troops were used to brutally suppress demonstrations – prompting one man’s iconic protest by standing in front of a tank.
Footage of the tanks has been widely shared after several days of historic protests in China, in which demonstrators waved blank sheets of white paper in symbolic protest against censorship.
China’s vast security apparatus now has swung into action to flood the streets with police and identify those who have been taking part in the demonstrations.
A column of tanks was spotted in the eastern city of Xuzhou, leading to fears they could be heading to put down the protests.
Popular US-based opposition blogger Fang Shimin, who shared the video, asked “are they going to Shanghai?”.
The city has seen large protest following a deadly blaze at an apartment block.
The fire broke out on the 15th floor and rapidly spread to the higher floors in the city of Urumqi.
Furious residents blamed the deaths on the Covid lockdown as they said they were only allowed to leave home for short periods each day and the timing was strictly controlled by authorities.
The protests have seen individual acts of heroism, including one woman who stood still as police surrounded her, then stole her phone before beating her.
She has been dubbed “new Tank Lady” in honour of the unknown “Tank Man”, who blocked the path of Chinese troops following the 1989 massacre.
The Chinese authorities have begun inquiries into some of the people who gathered at weekend protest as police remained out in numbers on the city’s streets.
In one case, a caller identifying as a police officer in the Chinese capital asked a protester to show up at a police station on Tuesday to deliver a written record of their activities on Sunday night.
In another, a student was contacted by their college and asked if they had been in the area where events took place and to provide a written account.
“We are all desperately deleting our chat history,” said one Beijing protester who declined to be identified.
“There are just too many police. Police came to check the ID of one of my friends and then took her away. We don’t know why. A few hours later they released her.”
Chinese authorities regularly warn that “foreign forces” are endangering national security and have accused them for stirring the 2019 pro-democracy Hong Kong protests.
Prominent nationalist bloggers have claimed the protests were fomented by “foreign forces”.
“Blaming it on foreign forces is a standard tactic,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
“This is how the party shirks responsibility and rallies people behind it.”