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What are the ‘colour revolutions’ that China’s Xi Jinping has warned against?

Speaking in the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan at the annual SCO summit, Xi called upon member states to support efforts by each country to safeguard their own security and development interests.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting of heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states at a summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022. (Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan via REUTERS)

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday (September 16) appealed to Russia, India, and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to cooperate with each other in order to prevent foreign powers from destabilising their countries by inciting “colour revolutions”.

Speaking in the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan at the annual SCO summit — the regional security grouping that also includes Pakistan, Iran, and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, President Xi called upon member states to support efforts by each country to safeguard their own security and development interests.

Xi also offered to train 2,000 law enforcement personnel to set up a regional counterterrorism training centre and to “strengthen law enforcement capacity building”.

What are “colour revolutions”?

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Colour revolutions refer to a series of uprisings that first began in former communist nations in Eastern Europe in the early 2000s, but are also used in reference to popular movements in the Middle East and Asia. Most have involved large-scale mobilisation on the streets, with demands for free elections or regime change, and calls for removal of authoritarian leaders.

Protesters often wear a specific colour, such as in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, but the term has also been used to describe movements named after flowers like the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. In 2019, Beijing had said the protests in Hong Kong had taken on “colour revolution characteristics”.

Moscow and Beijing have long criticised colour revolutions for being destabilising influences that have been orchestrated by the United States and its Western allies to overthrow regimes in order to further their own geopolitical interests.


A look at some of the better known “colour revolutions”.

Orange Revolution: It refers to a series of protests that occurred in Ukraine between November 2004 and January 2005. The movement was in response to reports from international and domestic observers that claimed that the country’s 2004 Presidential election runoff between Viktor Yushchenko, an ally of the West, and then incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Moscow, was rigged in favour of the latter.

The election commission had declared Yanukovych the winner of the election, drawing criticism from the US and European Union who said they would not recognise the results. Russia, however, claimed to have found no evidence of election fraud.


In the aftermath of the elections, protesters wearing orange took to the streets across the country. Orange was Yushchenko’s campaign colour. The results were subsequently annulled and the Ukrainian Supreme Court ordered a re-vote, in which Yushchenko emerged victorious and the movement was concluded.

Tulip Revolution: Also called the First Kyrgyz Revolution, the movement led to the ouster of Kyrgyzstan’s President Askar Akayev in early 2005. These protests were in response to the parliamentary elections in February, in which Akayev’s allies and family members won.

Foreign observers argued that the election process was deeply flawed, and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) claimed that election fraud had occurred. According to a Wall Street Journal report from February 2005, the US government had provided aid to the Kyrgyz opposition before the election via non-governmental agencies.

Protests erupted in the country against Akayev who had been President since 1990. In March 2005, opposition leaders joined demonstrators and they began to occupy the area outside the Parliament building in the capital city of Bishkek. As the movement gained momentum across the country, there were growing calls for the removal of Akayev. He refused to negotiate at first, but on March 24 that year, fled the country with his family, eventually finding his way to Russia, where he resigned the following month.

Jasmine Revolution: The popular uprising that occurred between December 2010 to January 2011 in Tunisia was in response to the underlying corruption, unemployment, inflation and lack of political freedoms in the country.


The immediate catalyst for the movement was the self immolation of a young vegetable vendor in front of a government building in the town of Sid Bouzid after his wares were confiscated by the police. His action, which became the symbol of the hardship and injustice Tunisians faced under the reign of longtime President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, ignited protests across the country. Western media houses were quick to adopt the phrase Jasmine revolution, ostensibly in reference to Tunisia’s national flower, to describe the movement.

The Tunisian government faced widespread domestic and international criticism for the violence used by security forces to quell the movement. Hundreds were reportedly killed and thousand injured, and President Ali’s pledges of reforms did little to ease tensions.


The protests not only led to Ali’s ouster in January 2011, but also inspired a wave of protests in North Africa and the Middle East, which came to be known as the Arab Spring.

First published on: 17-09-2022 at 17:54 IST
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