From Shanghai to Hong Kong, the protests against China’s strict Covid control measures has spread even as the authorities in some cities announced easing of restrictions. The protests have spread to over a dozen cities at a time when Covid cases are also spiraling.
A protester holds up a blank paper and chant slogans during a march in protest in Beijing. (Photo: AP)
By Adarsh T R: While China deployed police to curb protests against stringent Covid measures in Beijing and Shanghai, about 50 students at a university in Hong Kong sang and lit candles in a show of support for the protesters who called for President Xi Jinping’s resignation in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.
Hiding their faces with blank white sheets of paper to avoid official retaliation, the students chanted, “No PCR tests but freedom!” and “Oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves!”
Without mentioning the protests, the criticism of President Xi or the fire, some local authorities eased some restrictions on Monday amid protests in over a dozen cities over the weekend, the Associated Press reported.
The city government of Beijing announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found.
Urumqi, where the fire occurred, and another city in Xinjiang in the northwest announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume.
On Sunday, Beijing and Shanghai witnessed large-scale protests as residents clashed with police. Protests have also occurred in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest, and Nanjing in the east.
Amid all this, the ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out “effectively”, indicating President Xi’s government has no plans to change course, AP reported.
“Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” a People’s Daily commentator wrote.
Let’s look at the massive protests that occurred over the weekend in Urumqi, Shanghai and other cities against Covid lockdowns and other harsh measures put in place to curb infections.
The Covid lockdown protests began in Urumqi of Xinjiang region on Friday, after footage of an apartment fire that killed 10, led to accusations that residents were not allowed to leave as strict Covid measures were in place. After the fire, people hit the streets against the repeated lockdowns.
In China’s financial capital Shanghai protesters gathered on Middle Urumqi Road on Saturday and Sunday and called for President Xi Jinping’s removal. They chanted: Communist party! Step down! Xi Jinping! Step down! The authorities deployed more police and on Monday there were no reports of fresh protests in the region.
In Wuhan, the place where the pandemic began in 2019, protesters destroyed barricades, overturned makeshift Covid testing tents and called for lifting the curbs.
Chengdu witnessed silent protests as residents held up blank sheets of paper to oppose censorship. Smaller protests also took place in Nanjing, Dali, Changsha and Xi’an.
Protesters in Guangzhou called for ending lockdown and visuals showed protesters destroying a Covid testing booth on Monday. Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade center that is the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, has since announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing.
On Monday, the number of new daily cases in China rose to more than 40,000, including more than 36,000 with no symptoms.
The protests in China came against a backdrop of mounting public frustration over the government’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus. The zero-Covid policy is stoking public frustration as many are growing weary of snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and mass testing campaigns.