China Dissent Monitor 2023
Issue 5: July – September 2023
- More than 700 dissent events during the third quarter. CDM has collected 3,740 dissent events since June 2022, of which 2,083 are fully coded and available on the CDM public website. During the third quarter of 2023, CDM logged 707 dissent events, led by labor (62 percent) and housing (25 percent) protests, with the remainder linked to issues including retiree benefits, school safety, forced demolition, religious freedom, and abuses of state power. One-fifth (141) of the quarter’s dissent events occurred in Guangdong Province, with 104 of these events being labor protests. Another fifth of dissent events occurred in the three provinces of Henan, Shandong, and Shaanxi.
- Retiree protest on the rise. CDM has documented 42 protests this year by retirees seeking public benefits from local governments. Beginning with three large demonstrations at the beginning of the year, this form of dissent is becoming more frequent, with protests doubling since July 2023.
- Public dissent against “picking quarrels” offense. The crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is widely used by Chinese authorities to restrict protests and other forms of expression, offline and online. In this issue, we discuss recent developments related to the “picking quarrels” offense, including an open letter from lawyers widely shared online that calls for the abolition of this crime and a subsequent statement acknowledging its arbitrary use from the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). CDM has documented at least 12 cases where people have been charged with this offense for engaging in dissent, although this is only a small sample when compared to the number of activists, citizen journalists, and others punished with this crime.
- Economic protests hit a new high. CDM has logged 461 protests linked to economic grievances in August and September 2023, 1.5 times greater than the number logged over the same period in 2022. This pattern contrasts with news that China’s economic growth recovered in the third quarter. Nearly three in four of these events were labor protests, reflecting the continued rise in worker dissent which CDM analyzed in Issue 4.
- Repression varies by group. Of the 2,083 fully coded cases, CDM has documented direct evidence of repression in 620 cases (30 percent). In absolute terms, property buyers engaged in dissent experience more repression than other groups. However, members of religious or ethnic minority groups, including Falun Gong members, Christians, and Tibetans, experience repression at higher rates, which reflects the greater risk that members of these groups face when speaking out.