Protest Over Covid Curbs Spreads As China Fire Kills 10

'Down with Xi': Roadside anti-Covid protests spread as China fire kills 10 people

Shanghai is China’s most populous city and a financial center.


Protests against China’s strict restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic have spread to more cities, including financial hub Shanghai on Sunday, nearly three years after the pandemic , with a new wave of anger sparked by a deadly fire in the far west of the country.

Thursday’s fire that killed 10 people in a high-rise building in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, has sparked widespread public outrage. Many internet users surmised that residents were unable to get out in time because the building was partially locked, which city officials denied.

The fire prompted a wave of civil disobedience, including on Friday in Urumqi, unprecedented in mainland China since Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago.

In Shanghai, China’s most populous city, people gathered Saturday night at Wulumuqi Road – named after Urumqi – for a candlelit vigil that turned into a protest early in the day. Sunday hours.

As a large group of police watched, the crowd held up blank sheets of paper – a symbol of protest against censorship. Then they shouted: “Remove the blockade on Urumqi, lift the blockade on Xinjiang, lift the blockade on all of China!”, according to a video that went viral on social media.

At another point, a large group began shouting, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, Down with Xi Jinping,” according to eyewitnesses and videos, in a rare public demonstration against the Chinese leadership. country religion.

Police sometimes try to disperse crowds.

China is sticking to its COVID-free policy even as much of the world tries to coexist with the coronavirus. Though low by global standards, China’s infections hit a multi-day record high, with nearly 40,000 new infections recorded on Saturday.

China defends Xi’s signature no-COVID policy as saving lives and necessary to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Officials have vowed to go ahead with it despite growing public outcry and its growing impact on the world’s second-largest economy.

On Sunday, Xinjiang officials said public transport services would gradually resume from Monday in Urumqi. Many of its 4 million residents have been under China’s longest lockdown, banned from leaving their homes for 100 days.

Earlier in the day, Xinjiang Party Secretary Ma Xingrui called on the region to strengthen security maintenance and refrain from “illegal violent denial of COVID-19 prevention measures”.

Strong Xi

Widespread public outcry is extremely rare in China, where space for dissent has been completely eliminated under Xi Jinping, forcing people mostly to vent online. society, where they play cat and mouse with the censors.

Frustration is boiling over just over a month after Mr. Xi won a third term under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

Dan Mattingly, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, said: “This will put serious pressure on the party to respond. Most likely a response will be repression, they will arrest and prosecute some protesters”.

Still, he said, the unrest was a far cry from 1989, when the protests culminated in a bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

“Popular sentiment matters,” he said. “But as long as there is no split in the elite and as long as the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and security agencies are on his side, he does not face any significant risk.” nothing to do with his hold on power.”

The whole country is angry

The next few weeks could be China’s worst since the first weeks of the pandemic for the economy and healthcare system, Capital Economics’ Mark Williams said in a note last week.

In the northwestern city of Lanzhou, residents on Saturday overturned COVID staff’s tents and smashed testing booths, social media posts showed. Protesters said they were under lockdown although no one has tested positive.

Candlelight vigils for Urumqi victims took place at universities in cities including Nanjing and Beijing.

‘We don’t want health codes’

Videos from Shanghai show crowds facing police and chanting “Serve the people”, “We want freedom” and “We don’t want medical codes”, a reference to mobile phone apps must be scanned to enter public places across China.

Shanghai authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The city of 25 million people was locked down for two months earlier this year, sparking anger and protests.

Since then, Chinese authorities have sought to target more of their COVID containment measures, an effort that has been challenged by a surge in infections as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. first winter with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

On Friday night, crowds took to the streets of Urumqi, chanting “End lockdown!” and raised his fist in the air after the fire, according to the video on social media.

In Beijing, 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small protests or confronted local officials on Saturday over movement restrictions, some of who successfully pressured them to lift restrictions ahead of time.

A video shared with Reuters shows Beijing residents marching in an unidentifiable part of the capital on Saturday, chanting “Stop the blockade!”

Beijing authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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