scroll to top arrow or icon

What We’re Watching: China’s Communist Party Congress kickoff, fire at notorious Iranian prison

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.


Xi’s security signaling

The long-anticipated 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress kicked off Sunday with a two-hour speech by President Xi Jinping, who is all but assured to secure a norm-defying third term that could see him lead the party and the military until at least 2027. At the conclusion of the plenum on Oct. 22, the party will tap a new 200-member central committee, a politburo, and a seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Xi, who for years placed China’s economic agenda at the heart of public pronouncements, focused much of his address on China’s security standing. Indeed, he doubled down on commitments to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, saying that “resolving the Taiwan issue is the Chinese people’s own matter,” adding that Beijing wouldn’t tolerate “protectionism and bullying” by other nations – widely seen as a nod to Washington. What’s more, Xi called on the Chinese to “be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms,” a reference, some analysts say, to Xi’s anticipation of an eventual military confrontation with Washington over Taiwan. Crucially, Xi also said that he’ll keep in place – at least for now – the zero-COVID policy, which is partly responsible for sending the global economy into a tailspin. Decisions made during the event will tell the world what signal Xi wants to send about his future plans for the country.

Carnage at Iran’s Evin prison

At least eight people were killed and dozens injured when a blaze broke out Saturday at the notorious Evin prison on the outskirts of Tehran (the death toll is expected to rise). Information about the cause of the fire has been scarce, in part due to the government’s internet and telecommunications blackout. Still, witnesses posted videos on social media showing a series of explosions and gunfire around the premises. Evin, which houses thousands of political prisoners, journalists, human rights activists, and students – as well as several dual Iranian-American citizens – has long been subject to American sanctions for “serious human rights abuses.” The Islamic Republic, for its part, said that the blaze erupted after a fight between inmates, and rejected claims that the unrest was related to ongoing protests calling for regime change that have enveloped the country for five weeks. Meanwhile, conflicting accounts on social media said the blaze was a result of an attempted prison break or infiltration from the outside. As news of the fire broke, protesters gathered outside the prison, burning tires and shouting “death to the dictator.” The fire seems to have been put out, but protesters continue to rage.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter