Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy


Beijing
CNN

Protests erupted across China over the weekend, with hundreds of people at universities and in Shanghai chanting “Put down Xi Jinping! Come down, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented protest against the country’s strict and increasingly zero-covid policy.

A fire that killed 10 people and injured nine others at an apartment complex in Urumqi, the far-western capital of Xinjiang, on Thursday has sparked public outrage, with videos appearing to show the delayed lockdown measures by firefighters. from reaching the victims.

In China’s biggest cities, from the financial center of Shanghai to the capital Beijing, residents gathered to mourn those who died in the Xinjiang fires, protest zero-covid and call for freedom and democracy. At dozens of university campuses, students held peaceful demonstrations or put up protest posters. Following massive anti-lockdown protests in Urumqi on Friday night, residents of barricaded neighborhoods in many parts of the country broke down barriers and took to the streets.

Such widespread scenes of anger and defiance – Some extended until Monday morning – It is a rare minority in China, where the ruling Communist Party ruthlessly suppresses all forms of protest. But three years after the outbreak, many people continue to see the government’s relentless lockdowns, vivid tests and quarantines – as well as relentless censorship and attacks on personal freedoms.

Coupled with a series of heartbreaking deaths in recent months due to reform of sanctions and overzealous policing, the issue has become a serious concern.

The outrage sparked dramatic protests in Shanghai, many of its 25 million residents harbor deep resentment over the government’s zero-covid policy after a two-month lockdown in the spring.

On Saturday night, hundreds of residents gathered in a candlelight vigil on the city’s namesake Urumqi road to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fires, widely shared on Chinese social media and by witnesses – and immediately censored videos showed. Account

Around a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and postcards, the crowd held up blank white papers – traditionally symbolic of opposition to censorship – and chanted, “I need human rights, I need freedom.”

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Protesters hold protest signs in Shanghai, China on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

In several videos seen by CNN, people can be heard chanting for Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to “step down.” The crowd chanted, “Don’t look for a covid test, look for freedom!” He sang. And “Don’t seek dictatorship, seek democracy!”

Some videos show people singing China’s national anthem and The International, a benchmark of the socialist movement, and carry banners protesting the country’s particularly tough pandemic measures.

At around 3 am, police officers, who were watching from outside, started moving in to push back and disperse the crowd, which created tension with the protesters, the witness said.

The witness told CNN that after 4:30 a.m., he saw several people being arrested and put into a police car. The witness also said that the procession gradually dispersed before dawn.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Shanghai residents returned to the scene to continue their protests despite police presence and road closures.

Hundreds of people gathered at an intersection chanting “Free the people!” Videos show them shouting. Demanding the release of police arrested protesters.

Many people shout.

At this point, the police took a swift and forceful approach to arresting and dispersing the crowd.

In one video, a man holding a chrysanthemum walks across a crosswalk while a police officer tries to stop him.

“We must be brave! Am I breaking the law by holding flowers? “no way!” he asked the crowd. They responded by saying.

“We Chinese must be brave!” He said to the applause of the crowd. “Many of us were arrested yesterday. Are they jobless or familyless? We don’t have to be afraid!”

When the man was forced into a police car by more than 12 officers, the angry crowd chanted, “Release him!” He struggled as he shouted. And he hurried to his vehicle.

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

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In the evening, after a protester was forcibly dragged away, hundreds of people chanted “triads” at the police, referring to local criminals, according to a live broadcast.

Police officers blocked Shanghai Urumqi Road on Sunday.

On Sunday night, public demonstrations spread to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan, where thousands of residents called not only for an end to the Covid restrictions, but surprisingly for political freedoms.

In Beijing, hundreds of mostly young people protested in the city’s commercial center into the small hours of Monday. A small crowd first gathered along the Liangma River for those affected by the Xinjiang fire, which grew in size and eventually descended on the city’s Third Ring Road.

People chanted slogans against Zero-Covid, showed their support for protesters arrested in Shanghai, and called for greater civil liberties. “We want freedom! We want freedom!” the crowd chanted under more than one tunnel.

A Beijing protest held a candlelight vigil during Sunday night's protests.

A protester who spoke to CNN reporter Selina Wang at the protest said he was shocked by the election.

“Every conscientious Chinese should be here. I hope they can stand with us even though they are not required to express their opinion,” he said.

Crowds of people rallied along the busy riverbanks of the popular food and shopping district in the southwestern capital of Chengdu, according to a protester who spoke to CNN and videos posted online.

The meeting began with a minute’s silence to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire, which later turned political as the crowd swelled.

“Resistance to dictatorship!” The crowd roared. “We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors! They shouted in a thinly veiled reference to Xi, who began his rule-breaking third term last month.

Protesters carry blank papers and chant slogans during a protest in Beijing on Sunday night.

In the southern city of Guangzhou, hundreds gathered in a public square in Hazhou district, which has been on lockdown for weeks, the epicenter of the city’s ongoing Covid outbreak.

“We don’t want to be locked up, 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 roared.

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Given the history of the student-led Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989, protests have taken place across China, on university campuses – particularly those politically sensitive to the Communist Party.

On Sunday morning, around 100 students gathered around a protest slogan painted on the wall of the prestigious Peking University in Beijing. A student told CNN that when he arrived at the area around 1 a.m., security personnel used jackets to cover a protest sign.

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

“Say No to Lockdown, Yes to Freedom. No to VV testing, yes to food,” he read a message written in red ink, echoing the slogans of protests at Beijing crossings in October, just days before a key Communist Party meeting where Xi was confirmed for a third term in power.

“Open your eyes and look at the world, dynamic zero-covid is a lie,” said a protest slogan at Peking University.

According to the student, security personnel later covered the slogan with black paint.

Students at the Communication University of China, Nanjing, gathered to mourn the victims of the fire in Xinjiang on Saturday night.

Students later gathered to sing The Internationale before being dispersed by teachers and security.

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, at least a dozen students from the Communication University of China gathered in Nanjing on Saturday evening to mourn those who died in the Xinjiang fires. The videos show the students holding white paper and cell phone flashlights.

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

Hundreds of students protested against zero-covid and censorship at Tsinghua University in Beijing on Sunday.

“So will you and the country,” shouted one student.

The campus protests continued on Sunday. At Tsinghua University in Beijing, hundreds of students gathered in the square to protest against zero-covid and censorship.

Videos and images circulating on social media show students holding white papers and chanting, “Democracy and the rule of law! Freedom of expression!”

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