Recent anti-government protests in Iran have attracted attention from the Chinese activist community, with dissidents posting about the events on Twitter.

“The whole world is watching the revolution in Iran,” wrote Tiananmen survivor Wang Dan on Twitter. “This tells us one thing: an authoritarian country is full of uncertainty.”

“Anything can happen at any time. This is why I’m not hopeless about the future of China.”

Protesters hold placards reading “Support Iranians risen up against the religious dictatorship” as they stand behind a portrait of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with shoe marks over it during a demonstration in support of the Iranian people amid a wave of protests spreading throughout Iran, on January 3, 2018, in Paris. Photo: AFP/Lionel Bonaventure.

“On the first day of 2018, the Iranian people will be victorious,” wrote dissident journalist Gao Yu on Twitter on Monday.

HKFP’s political cartoonist Badiucao said that Chinese dissidents’ interest in the Middle East dates back to the Arab Spring in 2011, which inspired protest attempts in China.

“This round [of protests in Iran] will have triggered many memories and hopes,” he said. “I think people following [the protests] feel a sort of resonance and hope.”

“Both Iran and China have similar records of suppressing peaceful protests, large-scale arrests, torture and shootings,” he added. “We also see that the Iranian authorities this time have also blocked Telegram, Instagram and cut off the Internet in cities to prevent people from following the events.”

According to US-backed Voice of America, Chinese activist Hu Jia said that, the more the government tries to suppress the people, the faster a public awakening would occur. He added that the Iranian people’s methods of protest and the methods used by police to suppress them would have an effect on the Chinese people and on police in China.

‘Foreign interference’

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Tuesday that the ministry had noted reports on the unrest in Iran: “China hopes that Iran can maintain stability and achieve development.”

Iranian leaders have generally attributed the protests to foreign interference, alleging influence from the United States and Saudi Arabia – especially following President Donald Trump’s tweets in support of the protests. China’s Global Times took a similar line in its Wednesday editorial, saying that Iran had the right to hold in “contempt” any interference from Washington.

“Washington’s open interference in Iranian affairs should not be encouraged by the international community, especially when the West is alleging that China is ‘penetrating’ into some Western countries and interfering in their freedom of speech,” wrote the nationalistic paper.

State outlet Xinhua cited analysts in reporting that the United States may not directly interfere in the Iranian protests, but use them as a leverage in any nuclear discussions.

Users on the microblogging site reacted to the protests in various ways, with some appearing to believe that the protests were caused by foreign interference.

“How many people has the US fooled with its democracy and freedom?” asked one user on Friday. “Their fraudulent ideology caused the collapse of the USSR, Iraq, Ukraine and other countries, and now they’re meddling with Iran… Chinese people must be vigilant.”

“Are the street protests in Iran really a conspiracy by US-led western countries? I don’t believe it’s a main reason, the underlying problem is a social crisis caused by an economic crisis!” wrote another.

On Friday, “Iran” was the most-searched term on FreeWeibo, a site that allows users to search censored social media posts.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.