Massive protests rocked China with residents across several cities including Beijing and Shanghai gathering in numbers to push back against the Chinese government’s intense COVID-induced lockdowns and strict quarantine rules as part of its ‘zero-COVID’ policy.
The protests come at a time when the country logged a record daily spike in COVID-19 cases for the fifth straight day on Sunday (November 27). At least 40,347 new cases were recorded on Sunday, considerably up from 39,791 on Saturday and 39,506 on Friday.
Discontentment that had been simmering among Chinese citizens against the strict COVID curbs, intensified in Shanghai on Friday night and Saturday in the wake of a massive fire that killed 10 people in Urumqi. People blamed the deaths on strict lockdown polies, and have alleged that several residents couldn’t get out of the apartment building where the fire erupted, as a part of it was locked down.
On Sunday, the protests spread to the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Chengdu, where the government is still struggling to contain outbreaks.
In Shanghai, where the protests originated, hundreds of protesters clashed with the police on Sunday night, and raised slogans against the Chinese government. Purported videos of the protests circulating on social media showed agitators chanting slogans like “Xi Jinping, step down, CCP, step down.”
In Beijing, a crowd of 400 protesters assembled on the bank of Liangma river and raised slogans against the Xi Jinping government like “We don’t want COVID tests we want freedom”, demanding a rollback of lockdowns and mass testing.
Many of them, according to reports, sang the national anthem and others listened to speeches as police waited on the other side of the canal bank.
The protests have also spread to more than 50 Chinese colleges and universities. Students of the Tsinghua University, Xi’s alma mater, on Sunday staged a protest demanding the government to allow “democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression.”
The weekend has also witnessed massive protests from thousands of students across the length and breadth of China – from the Sichuan University in the western part to the Nanjing Communications University in the east.
Several protesters in Nanjing and Beijing were seen holding up blank sheets of paper in silent protest. Protesters say the blank sheet of paper represents the things they want to say but have not been allowed to say.
This type of protest was first seen when residents gathered for a candlelight vigil for the Urumqi victims in Shanghai on Saturday evening. Similar protests were witnessed on Sunday at the Tsingua University and at the demonstration near Liangma River.
Local journalists covering the protests called it an unprecedented one and that never seen in the past decades.
The BBC on Sunday claimed that one of its journalists was assaulted by police and detained while covering the protests in Shanghai.