January 30, 2023

Protests erupted across China in an unprecedented defiance of Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy

Protests erupted across China in an unprecedented defiance of Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy


Protests broke out all over China All weekend long, including on campuses and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted “Back down, Xi Jinping!

a Deadly fire An apartment block in Urumqi, the capital of the country’s far western region of Xinjiang, which killed 10 people and injured nine on Thursday, served as a catalyst for public outrage, as videos appeared to show that lockdown measures had delayed firefighters from getting to the hospital. Region. victims.

In China’s largest cities, from financial hub Shanghai to capital Beijing, residents have gathered to mourn the dead from the Xinjiang fire, speak out against HIV, and call for freedom and democracy. On dozens of universities, students demonstrated or put up protest posters. In many parts of the country, residents of ghettos have pulled down barricades and taken to the streets afterwards Mass anti-lockdown protests swept Urumqi on Friday night.

Such pervasive scenes of anger and defiance – Some of which extended into the early hours of Monday morning – Exceptionally rare in China, where the ruling Communist Party ruthlessly suppresses all forms of dissent. But three years into the pandemic, the government has pushed many people over the edge Continuous use Lockdowns, covid tests and quarantines – as well as the ever-tightening censorship and the ever-attacking on personal freedoms.

Escalation of restrictions in recent months, along with Series of heartbreaking deaths Blame the over-policing of surveillance, which brought things to a head.

The anger has led to notable acts of defiance in Shanghai, where many of its 25 million residents are deeply unhappy with the government’s no-covid policy after being locked down for two months in the spring.

Late Saturday night, hundreds of residents gathered for a candlelight vigil on Urumqi Road, named after the city, to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire, according to videos that went viral — and promptly censored — on Chinese social media. An eyewitness. the account.

Around a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers, and banners, the crowd held up blank white papers—in what is traditionally considered a symbolic protest against censorship—and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”

In multiple videos seen by CNN, people can be heard chanting, calling for China’s leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to “step down”. As the crowd chanted “You don’t want a Covid test, you want freedom!” and “You don’t want dictatorship, you want democracy!”

Some of the videos show people singing China’s national anthem and The Internationale, a standard of the socialist movement, while holding banners protesting the country’s pandemic crackdown.

Lines of police officers, who were initially looking in from outside, began moving in to push back and divide the crowd around 3 a.m., sparking tense confrontations with protesters, according to an eyewitness.

The witness told CNN they saw several people being arrested and taken away in a police car next to the makeshift memorial just after 4.30am. They also saw several protesters being grabbed by the officers from the crowd and taken behind the police line. The witness said that the protest gradually dispersed before dawn.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Shanghai residents returned to the site to continue their protest despite a heavy police presence and roadblocks.

Videos showed hundreds of people at an intersection chanting “Release the people!” In calling on the police to release the arrested protesters.

Crowds scream

This time, the police took a tougher approach, moving faster and more aggressively to make arrests and disperse crowds.

In one video, a man holding a bundle of chrysanthemums gave a speech while walking on a pedestrian crossing, while a police officer tried to stop him.

“We need to be braver! Am I breaking the law by carrying flowers?” he asked the crowd, who shouted “No!” In a reply.

“We Chinese need to be braver!” he said to the applause of the crowd. Many of us were arrested yesterday. Are they without a job or without a family? We must not be afraid! ”

The man faced a struggle as more than a dozen officers forced him into a police car, while the angry crowd shouted “Fire him!” And he rushed towards the car.

Other videos show chaotic scenes of police pushing, dragging, and beating protesters.

In the evening, after a demonstrator was violently dragged off, hundreds of people shouted “threesomes” at the police, referring to local crime syndicates, according to a live broadcast.

Police officers block off Urumqi Road in Shanghai on Sunday.

By Sunday evening, mass demonstrations had spread to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan, with thousands of residents calling not only for an end to Covid restrictions, but, more significantly, political freedoms.

In Beijing, hundreds of mostly young people demonstrated in the city’s commercial heart until the early hours of Monday. A small crowd first gathered along the Liangma River for a vigil for the victims of the Xinjiang fire, before growing larger and eventually taking to the city’s Third Ring Road.

People chanted anti-zero Covid slogans, expressed support for the protesters being held in Shanghai, and called for more civil liberties. we want freedom! we want freedom! The crowd under an overpass chanted.

A Beijing protester holds a candle at Sunday night's demonstrations.

Speaking to CNN’s Selina Wang at the protest, one protester said he was shocked by the turnout.

“Every conscientious Chinese should be here. They don’t have to express their opinions, but I hope they can stand with us.

In the southwestern city of Chengdu, large crowds demonstrated along bustling riverbanks in a popular food and shopping district, according to a protester interviewed by CNN and videos circulating online.

The rally began with a minute’s silence for the victims of the Xinjiang fires, and then turned political as the crowd, which numbered into the hundreds, grew larger.

“Opposition to dictatorship!” the crowd cheered. “We don’t want rulers for life. We don’t want emperors!” they shouted, a thinly veiled reference to Xi, who last month began a rule-breaking third term in office.

Demonstrators hold blank papers and shout slogans during a protest rally in Beijing on Sunday night.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, hundreds gathered in a public square in Haizhu District – the epicenter of the city’s ongoing Covid outbreak that has been locked down for weeks.

“We don’t want lockdowns, we want freedom! Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of the arts, freedom of movement, personal liberties. Give me back my freedom!” the crowd shouted.

Across China, protests have also erupted on university campuses — which is particularly politically sensitive to the Communist Party, given the history of student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, about 100 students gathered around a protest slogan painted on a wall at the prestigious Peking University in Beijing. One student told CNN that when he arrived at the scene around 1 a.m., security guards were using vests to cover the protest sign.

A security guard tries to cover a protest banner against Zero Covid on the campus of Peking University in Beijing.

“Say no to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to Covid testing, yes to food,” read the message scrawled in red paint, echoing the slogan of the protest that took place on an overpass in Beijing in October, just days before a key Communist Party meeting at which Xi secured a term. third in strength.

Peking University’s protest slogan read: “Open your eyes and look at the world, the dynamic of zero Covid is a lie.”

The student said that security guards later covered the logo with black paint.

Students of the China Communication University, Nanjing gathered for a vigil on Saturday night to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire.

The students later gather to sing The Internationale before being separated by the teachers and security guards.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, at least dozens of students from the China Communication University, Nanjing gathered on Saturday evening to mourn those who died in the Xinjiang fire. The videos show the students holding white sheets of paper and cellphone flashlights.

In one video, a university official is heard warning students: “You will pay for what you did today.”

Hundreds of students gathered at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Sunday to protest against the spread of the coronavirus and censorship.

One of the students shouted in response: “You too, and so is the country.”

Campus protests continued Sunday. At Tsinghua University, another elite university in Beijing, hundreds of students gathered in a square to protest the non-spread of the coronavirus and censorship.

Videos and photos circulating on social media show students holding white papers chanting: “Democracy and the rule of law! Freedom of speech!”