China has been rocked by anti-lockdown protests as ‘zero-COVID’ policy persists

China was rocked by protests on Sunday as weary citizens grew increasingly angry at the totalitarian country’s strict “zero-COVID” policy.

Students from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghau University were among groups across the country who took to the streets to protest a three-year lockdown since the virus was first discovered.

The current frustration is fueled in part by a harrowing apartment fire in the western Chinese city of Urumqi that has killed 10 people. Some believe lockdown measures have prevented residents from escaping; local officials tried to avoid blame for the deaths.

“Some residents’ ability to save themselves was too weak,” city fire department head Li Wensheng said at a news conference.

In Shanghai, police pepper sprayed about 300 protesters who had gathered for a vigil to honor victims of the deadly blaze, a witness told the Associated Press.

Protests also erupted in other major Chinese cities – such as Nanjing and Guangzhou – and a similar vigil was held in Beijing for the victims of the fire.

A man is arrested on November 27, 2022 as people gathered on a street in Shanghai.
A man is arrested as people gather on a street in Shanghai on November 27.
AFP via Getty Images

In some videos, protesters called for the resignation of China’s strong leader Xi Jinping and an end to Chinese Communist Party rule.

In Urumqi, where the fire broke out and where some residents have been under lockdown for months, dissidents chanted, “Remove the Communist Party! Remove Xi Jinping!” in a video that captured the scene. The escalating outrage came after rare protests erupted in the contested region on Friday night and protesters were hit by guards in hazmat suits.

A woman in the city said she has been unable to leave her apartment or even open her windows since August 8.

People in Beijing are pictured gathering for a vigil on Sunday, with some holding sheets of white paper in protest of COVID restrictions, while attendees commemorate victims of a deadly fire in Urumqi.
People in Beijing gather for a vigil on Sunday, holding white sheets in protest of COVID restrictions as they commemorate victims of a fire in Urumqi.

Videos of the protests were quickly deleted from the internet.

Demonstrators, including university students in Nanjing and Beijing, have started holding blank sheets of paper as they take to the streets, knowing that signs with targeted messages online could be censored.

While leaders have announced they will be easing some restrictions, the country has maintained its “zero Covid” stance. Despite criticism, China has reported just 5,232 deaths from the virus, compared with 1.09 million in the US.

People are pictured with blank papers as a form of silent protest in Shanghai on Sunday.
People hold up blank slips of paper as a form of silent protest in Shanghai on Sunday.
AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, Chinese officials said due to rising case numbers, the capacity of indoor venues in the southern city of Shenzhen, home to more than 12.5 million people, would be limited to 50%. It also urged the public to work from home.

With postal wires. China has been rocked by anti-lockdown protests as ‘zero-COVID’ policy persists


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