No masks, no test; Covid protests echo the crowd’s demand for liberty.
Hundreds of protesters and police officers clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night, as Covid protests against China’s strict Covid restrictions erupted for the third day and spread to several cities in the aftermath of a deadly apartment fire in the country’s far west.
Since President Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago, there has never been a greater wave of public disobedience in mainland China as anger over his famous zero-Covid policy mounts almost three years into the pandemic.
The second-largest economy in the world is also being significantly impacted by the Covid measures.
Shaun Xiao said in covid protest
“I’m here because I love my country, but not my government,” I wish I could go outside without restriction, but I can’t. “Our Covid-19 policy is a game that is not based on science or reality.“
On Sunday, protesters also took to the streets in Wuhan and Chengdu. Small gatherings held peaceful vigils in Beijing, while students on university campuses across China demonstrated over the weekend.
A fire at a residential high-rise building in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, sparked protests on Thursday after videos of the incident were shared on social media, prompting accusations that lockdowns were a factor in the blaze, which killed ten people.
In the early hours of Saturday, Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference to deny that Covid measures had hampered escape and rescue efforts.
Many of Urumqi’s four million residents have been subjected to some of the country’s longest lockdowns, with residents prohibited from leaving their homes for up to 100 days.
On Sunday, police maintained a strong presence on Wulumuqi Road in Shanghai, which is named after Urumqi, where a candlelight vigil the day before turned into protests.
“We just want our most fundamental human rights for us.” Before we may leave, we must pass a test. The Xinjiang accident pushed people too far,” said a 26-year-old protester in Shanghai who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation.
The police are arbitrarily detaining the residents even though they are not violent. They attempted to seize me, but those nearby caught hold of my arms and dragged me back, letting me escape.
Hundreds of people had gathered in the area by Sunday evening. Some tussled with police officers who were attempting to disperse them. People protested by holding up blank sheets of paper.
According to Reuters, police escorted people onto a bus, which was later driven away through the crowd with a few dozen people on board.
On Saturday, a vigil for the apartment fire victims in Shanghai turned into a protest against Covid curbs, with the crowd chanting for lockdowns to be lifted.
According to witnesses and videos posted on social media, one large group chanted in the early hours of Sunday, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping,” constituted a rare instance of a public protest against the government.
Urumqi, Beijing, and Wuhan
According to unverified social media videos, after Thursday’s fire in Urumqi, crowds took to the streets on Friday evening, chanting “End the lockdown!”
According to social media videos, a large crowd gathered on Sunday in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, where they also held up blank sheets of paper and chanted:
“We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors, said Xi, who has repealed presidential term limits, adding that “we don’t want lifelong rulers.”
Videos on social media showed hundreds of residents taking to the streets in Wuhan, China’s central city, where the pandemic began three years ago, smashing through metal barricades, overturning Covid demanding an end to lockdowns while testing tents.
Other cities that have seen public outrage include Lanzhou in the northwest, where residents overturned Covid staff tents and smashed testing booths on Saturday, according to social media posts. Protesters claimed they were placed under lockdown although no one tested positive.
The videos were unable to be independently verified.
According to images and videos posted on social media, dozens of people held a peaceful protest against Covid restrictions on Sunday at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, during which they sang the national anthem.
‘We don’t want to wear masks. ‘We want liberty.’
Late on Sunday, two seemingly unplanned protests erupted in Beijing’s Chaoyang district.
At one, at least a hundred people held blank sheets of white paper aloft. At another, crowds chanted, “We don’t want masks, we want freedom.” We don’t want Covid tests; we want to be free.”
Even though much of the rest of the world has relaxed restrictions, China has maintained Xi’s zero-Covid policy.
While the number of cases in China is low by global standards, it has been at a record high for days, with nearly 40,000 new infections on Saturday, causing additional lockdowns in cities across the nation.
Beijing has defended the policy as life-saving and necessary to keep the healthcare system from becoming overburdened. Officials have vowed to keep it up.
Since the city of Shanghai’s 25 million residents were placed under a two-month lockdown earlier this year, Chinese authorities have attempted to be more targeted in their Covid curbs, an effort that has been hampered by an increase in infections as the country faces its first winter with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Strange Covid Protests
Widespread public Covid protest is uncommon in China, where dissent has been largely suppressed under Xi, forcing citizens to vent their rage on social media, where they play cat-and-mouse with censors. Frustration is high just over a month after Xi was elected to a third term as leader of China’s Communist Party.
According to Dan Mattingly
There is a fair probability that one response will be repression, and some protestors may be detained and charged. “This will put the party under intense pressure to respond,” he added.
Still, he claims, the unrest is nothing compared to what occurred in 1989, when protests culminated in a bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
He went on to say that as long as Xi had China’s elite and military on his side, his hold on power would be secure.
Over the weekend, Ma Xingrui encouraged the area to step up security and curb the “illegal violent rejection of Covid-prevention measures.”