NEW YORK—Any other Sunday for college freshman Elsie He would have been a day of reading, studying for class, or doing meditation. But something else was weighing on her mind that cloudy April 25.
Donning her usual outfit of a light single-layer cotton jacket, long dark pants, and sneakers, with her long black hair tied back into a ponytail, the student hopped on a bicycle with three friends in the early morning. Their destination was Zhongnanhai, the government compound at the heart of Beijing.
It was about 7 or 8 a.m., too early for He to venture out of the school dorm on an off day, and few pedestrians were on the street. That was until she reached Fuyou Street, which led up to the compound. There, throngs of people and still more were streaming in. They talked softly, forming a long line on the sidewalk and carefully avoided stepping on the road or blocking traffic. Most people stood quietly still. Some were seated to meditate or read. A few passed around plastic bags to collect trash….