Protests erupted across China on Saturday, including at universities and in Shanghai, where hundreds chanted “Resign, Xi Jinping! Resign, Communist Party!” In an unprecedented show of defiance against the stricter and more costly policy of the country against Covid-19.
A deadly fire at an apartment block in the country’s remote western Xinjiang region that killed 10 people and injured nine on Thursday has served as a catalyst for public outrage as a video emerged that appeared to show It shows the quarantine measures that delayed the firefighters in reaching the victims.
Protests began Saturday in cities and universities across China, some of which continued into Sunday, according to social media videos and witness accounts.
On dozens of university campuses, students held rallies or put up posters to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire and speak out against Covid-19. In several cities, residents of closed neighborhoods broke barriers and poured into the streets following massive anti-quarantine protests that swept Urumqi on Friday night.
Such widespread scenes of anger and defiance are rare in China, where the ruling Communist Party brutally suppresses all dissent. But three years into the pandemic, many people have been pushed to the brink by the government’s relentless use of quarantine, covid testing and quarantine. Public anger has reached boiling point after a series of heartbreaking deaths blamed on Covid-19 control measures.
According to videos widely circulated on Chinese social media — and quickly censored — the anger led to significant acts of defiance on Saturday night in Shanghai, where hundreds of residents gathered at an intersection to protest Mourning the victims of the fire in Xinjiang.
Around a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and placards, the crowd held white sheets of paper – traditionally a symbolic protest against censorship – and chanted: “Need for human rights, need for freedom”.
In several videos seen by CNN, people can be heard shouting for Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to “step down.” The crowd also chanted: “You don’t want a covid test, I want freedom!” And “You don’t want dictatorship, you want democracy!”
Some videos show people singing China’s national anthem and the Internationale, a benchmark of the socialist movement, while holding banners protesting Beijing’s ultra-tough handling of the pandemic.
Lines of police officers, initially watching from outside, began moving in to push back and divide the crowd around 3 a.m., sparking tense clashes with protesters, according to a witness. .
The witness told CNN that after 4:30 a.m. they saw several people being arrested and put into a police car next to the makeshift memorial. The witness said the protest gradually dispersed before dawn.
Many of the protests have taken place on university campuses – which are politically particularly sensitive to the Communist Party, given the history of the student-led Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Around midnight on Sunday, about 100 students gathered around a protest slogan painted on a wall at the prestigious Peking University in Beijing. A student told CNN that when he arrived at the scene around 1 a.m., security guards used jackets to cover the protest sign.
“Say no to quarantine, yes to freedom. No to Covid-19 testing, yes to food,” a message written in red was the slogan of a protest held on an overpass in Beijing in October, just days before a key Communist Party meeting where Xi Jinping is seeking a third term. The presidency was elected. the power.
The protest slogan of Peking University reads: “Open your eyes and look at the world, the dynamic zero covid is a lie.”
The student said the security guards later covered the slogan with black paint.
Students later gathered to read The Internationale before being dispersed by teachers and guards.
In the eastern province of Jiangsu, at least a dozen students from the Communication University of China, Nanjing gathered Saturday evening to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fires. The videos show students holding white sheets of paper and cellphone flashlights.
In one of the videos, a university official can be heard warning students: “You will pay for what you did today.”
A student shouted back: “So are you, so is the country.”
University protests continued on Sunday. At Tsinghua University, another top university in Beijing, hundreds of students gathered in a square to protest against Covid-19 and censorship.
Videos and images circulating on social media show students holding white sheets of paper and shouting, “Democracy and the rule of law!” Freedom of expression!”
In one of the videos, a female student can be heard shouting to the cheers of the crowd, “From now on, I will no longer perform oral sex for government power!”