Zhou Fengsuo was a Tiananmen Square protester who was jailed in China for a year.
He said he thinks Xi's willingness to roll back zero-COVID measures is a sign of weakness.
Zhou said he was in tears watching young protesters take to the streets to voice their anger.
A man who helped organize the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and survived the Chinese government's brutal crackdown says Chinese President Xi Jinping is showing a "rare display of weakness."
Zhou Fengsuo told Newsweek that Xi's willingness to walk back on elements of his zero-COVID policy signals that he is not infallible. Zhou, a Tsinghua University student protester, was imprisoned by the Chinese government and sent to a re-education camp for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
"It's hard to predict the outcome of the protests now. But we are already seeing some loosening of the zero-COVID policy, which is a rare display of weakness for Xi Jinping," Zhou told Newsweek.
Commenting on the protests - a rare sight under Xi's rule - Zhou said the students and youths who are railing against the Chinese government are "going through a baptism of political activism" and becoming "masters of their own fate."
"As a survivor of the Tiananmen massacre, I am in tears while watching the protesters chanting 'end CCP' in Shanghai, the birthplace of CCP," Zhou said.
During the Tiananmen Square protests, hundreds of Chinese students were killed when the Chinese government rolled in tanks to suppress dissent. The Chinese government has never fully acknowledged the protests or revealed a death toll.
Zhou told Newsweek that amid the continuing protests, Xi's hold over the Communist Party appears to remain absolute.
"Xi Jinping still has complete control within the CCP. But his tight control also means that the system can't deal with surprises because his underlings aren't willing to take initiatives without explicit instructions from Xi," Zhou said.
"Additionally, the zero-COVID system is exhausted already. But at this stage, he is still entrenched," Zhou added.
Some COVID restrictions have been lifted in Guangzhou and Chongqing following widespread protests in every major Chinese city, including its capital, Beijing. At these protests, people were seen carrying sheets of blank paper - a new symbol of defiance against the government. And while many of the protests appeared to have quietened down over the weekend, there were still clashes between protesters and the police in Guangzhou on Tuesday night.