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China: More protests breakout as anger grows over Covid restrictions

China: More protests breakout as anger grows over Covid restrictions


ore protests erupted across China over the weekend as citizens took the streets in a rare display of defiance over Xi Jinping’s strict Covid restrictions.

Public fury forced authorities in the far western Xinjiang region to open up parts of the capital Urumqi, which has been subject to a punishing ‘zero-Covid‘ lockdown for more than three months.

The protest was triggered by the deaths of ten people in a fire at a high-rise apartment block on Thursday. Some have claimed lockdown measures hampered rescue efforts and the ability of residents to escape.

Amid the country’s zero-Covid policy, crowds also gathered in Shanghai on a road named after the city in Xinjiang on Sunday afternoon and shouted “we don’t want PCR tests, we want freedom!”, according to a witness.

Some held blank pieces of paper, while others lit candles and laid flowers for the victims in Urumqi.

“Everyone thinks that Chinese people are afraid to come out and protest, that they don’t have any courage,” said a protester, who said it was his first time demonstrating.

“Actually, in my heart, I also thought of this. But then when I went there, I found that the environment was such that everyone was very brave.”

In further scenes of discontent, verified by The Guardian, crowds were heard chanting: “Communist party! Step down! Xi Jinping! Step down!”

Other videos showed demonstrators in a plaza singing China’s national anthem, seen as an attempt to protect themselves from accusations of being against the government. One of the lines is: “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves.”

In Beijing, 1,700 miles away, residents also staged protests, confronting officials over restrictions on their movement. Some successfully pressured authorities into lifting the lockdown measures ahead of schedule.

President Xi‘s government faces mounting anger at its “zero-COVID” policy that has shut down access to areas throughout China in an attempt to isolate every case at a time when other governments are easing controls and trying to live with the virus.

That has kept China’s infection rate lower than the United States and other countries. But the ruling Communist Party faces growing complaints about the economic and human cost as businesses close and families are isolated for weeks with limited access to food and medicine.

Some protesters were shown in videos shouting for Xi to step down or the ruling party to give up power.

Party leaders promised last month to make restrictions less disruptive by easing quarantine and other rules but said they were “sticking to zero-Covid”.

Despite the tight restrictions, China has reported consecutive days of over 30,000 or more over the last week. The country also reported its first death in the last six months in November.

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