Lockdowns Push Protest Movements Online Around The World

In a number of countries around the world, the pandemic pulled the plug on street protests. But demonstrators have been quick to find digital alternatives.

Free Hong Kong protest in Animal Crossing
Free Hong Kong protest in Animal Crossing

As people are forced to stay at home and gatherings are banned in many countries around the world, protests are becoming a rare sight — at least in our city streets. But online, people are finding all kinds of innovative ways to demonstrate.

Indeed, what better way than a virtual protest to continue defending your opinions while still respecting the lockdown measures?


The Polish parliament was expected last week to consider new laws that would almost completely ban abortions — bills that had been withdrawn in 2016 following massive demonstrations. This time, of course, activists aren't allowed to take their frustrations to the streets. Instead, according to the daily Polska, they launched "lockdown virtual demonstrations' with the hashtag #ProtestAtHome. In the end, the MPs only voted to delay the bills.

Elsewhere, people are staging protests with the help of a popular video game: Animal Crossing New Horizons.

This time, of course, activists aren't allowed to take their frustrations to the streets.

The fifth installment of the Nintendo Switch series, released on March 20, is a state-of-the-art simulation social game where users play a human who lives in a village and can interact with anthropomorphic animals and perform various tasks such as fishing, bug catching, or ... protesting.


Anti-government protests in Russia have long required creative workarounds. Now, angry at the lack of economic aid from the government in response to the COVID-19, citizens are organizing on the Russian equivalent of Google Maps — Yandex.Maps — by dropping virtual pins in front of government buildings in several major cities, including Rostov-on-Don, Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to Global Voices. "No money to pay off loans! What are we supposed to do?" read one message. "Declare a state of emergency or stop restrictions on people," read another.


French sex workers organized a five-day virtual protest in Animal Crossing from April 8 to 13, Têtu magazine reports. The digital demonstration comes four years after the introduction of a French law aimed at cracking down on prostitution.

Photo: monica costa via Twitter

Since they could not protest in the streets, sex workers used their online avatars to wave signs reading "sex is work" or "someone I love is a sex worker" before posting screenshots of the protest on social media. Sex workers wanted to denounce the precarious conditions they are facing since the law was enacted, conditions that have only worsened, they say, since the lockdown measures were implemented.

Awen, one of the protest organizers, told the French magazine that he had not seen a client for a month: "Going out isn't cool for public health. But not going hungry would be cool too," he said.

Hong Kong

Players in Hong Kong have been using the platform to stage protests as well, prompting the Chinese government to block sales of the game.

What happens after the coronavirus crisis subsides remains, of course, to be seen.

Joshua Wong, leader of the Hong Kong activist group Demosisto, has taken part in these protests and posted pictures on Twitter. He says the game was "fast becoming a new way for Hong Kong protesters to fight for democracy." Players are displaying banners that read "Free Hong Kong Revolution Now." Avatars can also been seen destroying images of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Anti-government protests began in Hong Kong in June 2019 in reaction to an extradition bill and escalated throughout the rest of that year and into 2020. What happens after the coronavirus crisis subsides remains, of course, to be seen. But if the digital antics on Animal Crossing are any indicator, the movement is still alive and kicking.

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A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo


TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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