China’s stringent ‘zero-Covid’ curbs trigger outrage, protests across the country
Protests against China’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions erupted across the country including the financial hub Shanghai where hundreds of people hit the streets and reportedly chanted, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping”. This comes after a deadly fire in a high-rise building in China’s Xinjiang region on Thursday killed at least 10 people as curbs allegedly obstructed escape and rescue operations.
In an unprecedented protest against China’s leadership, people in various cities and universities took to the streets across the country late Saturday and early Sunday. In Shanghai, media reports suggest that residents gathered on late November 26 on the city’s Wulumuqi Road (named after Urumqi).
The building fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region has led to widespread public anger which many say have resulted in the recent protests. As many internet users believe that people from the building could not escape in time because of the COVID-19 induced partial lockdown that the building was under at the time. However, the city officials denied these claims but later issued an apology.
Videos circulating on Chinese social media show hundreds of people in downtown Shanghai initially lighting candles for the victims of the Xinjiang fire, on Saturday evening. Subsequently, the crowd held blank sheets of paper, a symbol against censorship and later chanted, “Lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China!”
Such protests in China are rare since they can result in harsh penalties.
Reportedly, the situation had eventually subsided by Sunday morning in Shanghai as police had tried to break up the crowd. This comes after similar protests erupted in China's Xinjiang region on Saturday following the fire in Urumqi where the crowds reportedly chanted, "End the lockdown!”
Meanwhile, several photos and videos of university students protesting also emerged overnight. Demonstrations were seen in China’s capital Beijing, said a report by CNN, at around 1:00 am (local time) on Sunday at Peking University. While photos and videos from China’s Nanjing Communications University also emerged on Saturday night.
As public anger grows amid three years of lockdowns, restrictions, and daily Covid tests, protests in China are on the rise with many against the country’s zero-Covid measures. Protests were largely seen from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou where earlier this month people marched in Guangzhou's Haizhu district. However, Beijing continues to struggle as a record number of Covid cases have been reported for four consecutive days now.