Updated Jan 16, 2023, 5:20pm EST
East Asia

A woman in China asked friends to post this video after her “disappearance” over COVID protests


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The Video

A video of a 26-year-old woman predicting her arrest by Chinese authorities after she took part in a peaceful vigil for victims of last year’s Urumqi fire in Beijing, circulated on Twitter on Monday. The fire, which killed at least a dozen people, spurred nationwide protests over China’s zero-COVID policy.

“Now I entrust some friends of mine [to make] this video public after my disappearance,” Cao Zhixin, an editor at the Peking University Press, says in the video that was posted to YouTube late Sunday.

“In other words when you see this video, I have been taken away by the police for a while like my other friends.”

Semafor could not independently verify the authenticity of the video, but it was shared by several activists and journalists after Cao was allegedly arrested by the police.

In the video, Cao says that she and her friends attended the vigil for the Urumqi fire victims on Nov. 27, along with thousands others who brought candles, flowers, and blank white papers as part of what became known as the “A4 Revolution” to protest against China’s strict COVID protocols.


She recalls that despite following the rules and avoiding confrontations with the police, she and her friends were held at a police station for 24 hours after the vigil and were forced to sign arrest notices where the accusations were left blank.

Nearly a month later, four of her friends were arrested again –– their locations unknown.

The video’s description notes that Cao was the last of her six friends to be taken away by the police and that the video was recorded after a fourth friend disappeared.

“When our compatriots died, we have the right to express our legitimate emotions,” Cao says in the video. “If they want to convict us, show the evidence to the public. Don’t let us disappear from this world unjustly. Don’t let us be taken away or be convicted so arbitrarily.”

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Step Back

NPR first reported on the video last week without naming Cao, as part of their story on how many young protesters had been swiftly and silently arrested for attending demonstrations across the country against China’s strict COVID protocols. (The YouTube video posted on Sunday identified Cao.)


NPR provided revealing details of how police launched a swift crackdown on peaceful protesters by triangulating phone tower data and visiting their homes at night.

Many attendees of vigils and protests were supposedly arrested after December 18, the report said.

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