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Protests Flare Up Across China Over Beijing’s Zero Covid-19 Policy

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Public opposition to China’s hardline zero Covid-19 policy irrupted in Shanghai Sunday as crowds took to the streets in protest on Sunday. Videos emerged on social media showing protests in Shanghai and other cities across China.

A deadly fire in China’s Xinjiang region, sparked outrage with many social media users blaming lengthy Covid lockdowns for impeding rescue efforts.

China is the last country committed to a zero-Covid policy, with authorities using emergency lockdowns, lengthy quarantines, and mass testing to combat new outbreaks as they emerge.

Some protesters can be heard chanting in a video shared on social media saying “Step aside, Xi Jinping! Step down, CCP! “In a rare display of opposition to China’s top leadership, protesters gathered in central Shanghai’s Wulumuqi street – named after Urumqi in Mandarin.

An eyewitness captured video of large crowds shouting and holding up white pieces of paper as a symbol of protest against censorship as they faced several lines of police.

According to multiple witnesses, the police took a couple of people away.

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Vigils held across China

Authorities moved quickly to stifle online discussion of the protest, removing related phrases from Weibo platform almost immediately after footage of the rallies surfaced.

The area was quiet by Sunday, but a strong security presence was visible. According to an Agence France-Presse journalist, some people holding flowers were approached by police before leaving.

According to an undergraduate participant, other vigils were held overnight at universities across China, including one at Peking University.

According to him, the students communicated with security guards and teachers, but it is still being determined whether they were punished for their participation.

When he arrived, the graffiti had already been covered up.

Social media videos also showed people holding lights and white sheets of paper at the Nanjing Institute of Communications.

On Weibo, protest-related hashtags were censored, and videos on the video platforms Duoyin and Kuaishou were removed.

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Social media users shared videos of similar small protests in Xi’an, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. Agence France-Presse could not independently verify the footage.

China reported 39,506 domestic Covid cases on Sunday, a record high but small in comparison to caseloads in the West during the pandemic’s peak.

The protests come amid growing public outrage over China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus, and they follow sporadic rallies in other cities recently.

Several high-profile cases in which emergency services were allegedly slowed by Covid lockdowns, resulting in deaths, have sparked public outrage.

Following the deadly fire in Urumqi, hundreds of people gathered outside the city’s government offices, chanting “Lift lockdowns!” according to footage partially verified by Agence France-Presse.

In another video, dozens of people are marching through an east-side neighbourhood, shouting the same slogan before clashing with government officials and angrily rebuking security personnel.

Agence France-Presse could confirm the videos by studying local landmarks but couldn’t pinpoint when the protests actually took place.

Officials in Urumqi said on Saturday that the city had “reduced social transmissions to zero” and would “restore normalcy to residents in low-risk areas in a timely manner.”

Source: Agence France-Presse, Reuters

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