New fears have emerged for the safety of Chinese activist Peng Lifa who is believed to be behind the rare public protest against leader Xi Jinping in China last week.
Some believe the protestor is facing "secret torture" or even execution.
The demonstrator stunned Beijing residents when he hung banners of political protest from an overpass in the Chinese capital on Thursday, swiftly leading to his arrest and the signs being removed.
While images of the protest shared by locals were removed from circulation by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) censors, the stunt attracted global attention with countless posts circulating on Twitter.
The banners contained various disparaging anti-government messages, hitting out at the country's strict Covid measures and calling for the ousting of "dictator" and "traitor" Xi Jinping.
The Chinese leader is expected to claim a third leadership term at the end of the week-long congress that began on Sunday.
"We need food, not Covid tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns," the sign read, referencing China's strict zero-Covid-19 policy.
"We want dignity, not lies. We need reform, no cultural revolution," the white banner continued in red letters.
A second banner called on residents to "go on strike at school and work, remove dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping", according to multiple reports.
Calls for 'banner hero' to be released
It's been claimed that Lifa has not been seen or heard from since his arrest with a petition launched to pressure China to free the "banner hero".
"He was just exercising the right to freedom of speech. However, he was immediately arrested," the petition founder wrote, claiming that "CCP harshly censored any comments possibly mentioning this incident".
"CCP has a long and infamous history of persecuting and torturing prisoners of conscience. It is needless to say that Peng Lifa will be no exception, especially at this particular time when Xi Jinping, the dictator of the CCP and Chinese government, is campaigning for another five-year term," the petition reads.
The petition encourages those living outside of China to "write to your congresspeople/senators about Peng’s heroic action."
It also encouraged Chinese residents to let people know what happened at Sitong Bridge "but only when it is safe to do so".
"Please ask your government [to] put pressure on CCP so that Peng could be saved from the very likely secret torture and, in the worst case, execution," it concludes.
"We may not be able to undo all the wrongs happening in China, but we can start by trying to save one single person who fearlessly spoke for his fellow people."
Current China policies set to continue
Xi, who came to power in 2012, is expected to receive a third five-year term as party leader at the end of the congress.
Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said "Xi is making it very clear he intends to hold onto power for as long as his health allows him to".
His government’s strict anti-pandemic polices, which have placed millions of people under quarantine, have prompted small protests and confrontations with authorities.
Despite this, this week's ongoing Communist Party congress saw Xi reaffirm a commitment to his policies for the next five years and possibly elevate his status even further as one of the most powerful leaders in China’s modern history.
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