Our latest quote of the day is taken from a viral poem scrawled on a wall in Xi’an titled “My Rights” by the anonymous poet “Sowing Seeds Alone.” The poem is a call to protect the rights of “pedestrians” against the domination of “drivers.” While not spelled out specifically in the poem, references to the National People’s Congress and political leadership indicate the drivers and pedestrians motif is likely an allegory for the Party-state and average citizens. As such, the poem—which calls for pedestrians to “wake up and fight”—is a rather extraordinary public challenge to the Party-state’s legitimacy:
I have the right not to buy a car
I have the right not to learn how to drive
I have the right to take only the bus and the subway
I have the right to walk
I have the right to rely on and enjoy walking!
I have the right not to be intimidated by cars
What’s more, I have the right not to be rammed, crushed, dragged, or thrown by cars.
When walking at night, I have the right not to be blinded or bothered by headlights
If I’m bullied or agitated by a car,
I have the right to smash it!
If I can’t find, remember, or catch the car in question,
I have the right to smash any other car, just to vent my rage!
I have the right to demand that drivers not constitute more than 40% of the National People’s Congress,
I have the right to unobstructed pedestrian zones,
I have the right to demand that drivers be forbidden to lead the nation
I have the right to not be injured by objects hurled from on high!
are those of a pedestrian in an automobile age,
In this automobile age, the pedestrian seeking to protect
life and limb
must wake up and fight for their due legal rights!
— Sowing Seeds Alone (a Xi’an poet) [Chinese]
The X (formerly Twitter) account @whyyoutouzhele, the first to share the poem publicly, later posted another work attributed to Sowing Seeds Alone that had been graffitied elsewhere in Xi’an. In the second photograph shared to X, Sowing Seeds Alone wrote: “Opposing a driver-dominated society is a movement to wake up pedestrians. It is a glorious movement of national salvation!” The writing also referenced a “Wise Chinese Society.”
Graffiti and poetry were major political flashpoints in 2023. In August, the painting of the 12 Core Socialist Values on a London street famous for its graffiti inspired a wave of anti-Party counter-graffiti—and a burst of debate on Weibo—until both the London wall and all Weibo comments were whitewashed. Soon after, a poem graffitied under a bridge in Zhengzhou titled “Momma” went massively viral and then was also whitewashed both literally and figuratively, despite having no overt or implied political meaning. It is unclear if Sowing Seeds Alone’s poetry was at all inspired by the two incidents.