In a rare, broad display of public outrage, Chinese protesters have taken to holding blank pieces of paper to vent their rage about COVID-19 restrictions.

Even though much of the globe seek to coexist with the coronavirus, China is upholding its strict zero-COVID policy.

Online images and videos showed university students silently protesting while holding up blank sheets of paper in Nanjing and Beijing, among other locations. This approach was conducted in part to avoid censorship or detention.

"The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say," a protester simply called Johnny by Reuters, said.

One widely circulated video from Saturday, which could not be independently authenticated, showed a lone woman holding a piece of paper on the steps of the Communication University of China in the eastern city of Nanjing before an unnamed male walks into the scene and takes it away.

Other photographs showed scores of individuals walking up the university steps with blank pieces of paper illuminated against the night sky by flashlights from their phones.

Later, a man could be seen lambasting the protesters.

"One day you'll pay for everything you did today," he said, in videos seen by Reuters. "The state will also have to pay the price for what it has done," people in the crowd shouted back.

One resident of Beijing with the last name Wang expressed his regret at learning of "secondary disasters" concerning the COVID-19 policy as he joined his neighbors on Saturday to pressure local authorities to lift the lock on his apartment.

Wang was referring to incidents in China that sparked outrage on social media, such as a pregnant woman who miscarried in January after being denied entry to a hospital in Xian, the fatal bus crash in Guizhou that transported people who were being quarantined, and a young boy who died from gas poisoning in Lanzhou while the city was on lockdown.

On their WeChat timelines or on Weibo, other Internet users expressed their support by uploading blank white squares or pictures of themselves clutching blank sheets of paper.

By Sunday morning, the hashtag "white paper exercise" had been banned on Weibo, prompting users to express their displeasure with the censorship.

Widespread in-person protests are uncommon in China, where President Xi Jinping has virtually eradicated space for criticism, leaving residents to vent on social media, where they play cat-and-mouse with censors.

In Hong Kong in 2020, protestors hoisted blank pieces of white paper in protest to avoid slogans prohibited by the city's new national security law, enacted following enormous and often deadly protests the previous year. This year, demonstrators in Moscow have also used them to oppose Russia's war with Ukraine.