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Protests across China as anger mounts over zero-Covid policy


BEIJING: Angry crowds took to the streets of Shanghai early on Sunday morning, and social media videos showed protests in other cities across China, as the public protested against hard policy snake no Covid by the government.
A deadly fire on Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, sparked a wave of anger as many social media users blamed the coronavirus’ prolonged lockdown for having hinder rescue efforts.
China was the last major economy to adopt a Covid-free strategy, with authorities adopting rapid lockdowns, prolonged quarantines and mass testing to quell new outbreaks. when they appear.
In a video widely shared on social media and geolocated by AFP, some protesters can be heard chanting “Xi Jinping, step down! CCP, step down!” at Wulumuqi Street in central Shanghai – named for Urumqi in Mandarin – in a rare public outcry against China’s top leadership.
One person who attended the Shanghai protests but asked to remain anonymous told AFP they arrived at the rally at 2am (1800 GMT) to see a group of people placing flowers on the sidewalk in memory of the 10 dead. life in the fire. while another group chanted slogans.
Video taken by a witness showed a large crowd shouting and holding up blank pieces of paper – a symbol of protest against censorship – as they faced lines of police.
Attendees said there were minor clashes, but overall the police were “civilized”.
“It was touching to see so many like-minded and humanitarian people coming together,” they said.
“It’s shocking to know that, in today’s circumstances, there are still so many brave people standing up.”
Several witnesses said several people were taken away by police.
Authorities were quick to restrict online discussion of the protest, with related phrases being removed from Twitter-like sites. Weibo platform almost immediately after footage of the protests appeared.
The area was quiet on Sunday daytime but a heavy security presence could be seen.
An AFP journalist saw several people holding flowers being approached by police before leaving.
Other vigils took place overnight at universities across China, including one at the elite Peking University, a university student told AFP.
Speaking anonymously for fear of the consequences, he said some anti-Covid slogans had been graffitied on walls within the university, with some repeating words written on banners hung on a bridge in North Korea. Sutra just before the Communist Party Congress in October.
People started to gather around midnight local time, but at first he dared not join.
“When I arrived (two hours later) I thought there were at least 100 people there, maybe 200,” he said.
“At first, they sang ‘The Internationale.’ Then some students started chanting slogans, but the reaction wasn’t great. People weren’t really sure what they should shout. But I heard everything. who shouted: ‘No Covid test’, yes to freedom!'”
Photos and videos he showed AFP corroborated his account.
The students have contacted security guards and teachers, he said, but it is not clear if they will be punished for participating.
The graffiti was covered when he arrived.
Videos on social media also showed a mass vigil at the Nanjing Media Academy, with people holding lamps and white sheets of paper.
Hashtags related to the protest have been censored on Weibo, and video platforms Duoyin and Kuaishou have all videos removed.
Videos from Xi’an, Guangzhou and Wuhan also went viral on social media, showing similar small protests. AFP was unable to independently verify the footage.
China reported 39,506 domestic Covid cases on Sunday, a record high but small compared with cases in the West at the height of the pandemic.
The protests come amid growing public frustration over China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus and follow sporadic protests in other cities recently.
Several well-known instances in which emergency services were allegedly slowed down due to Covid-19 lockdowns, resulting in deaths, have sparked public outcry.
After the deadly fire in Urumqi, hundreds of people gathered outside the city’s government offices, chanting: “Let’s lift the blockade!”, footage partially confirmed by AFP showed.
In another clip, dozens of people are seen marching through a neighborhood in the city’s east, chanting similar slogans before confronting a line of officials wearing protective gear and angrily rebuking security personnel. .
AFP was able to verify the videos by locating local landmarks but was unable to pinpoint exactly when the protests occurred.
Urumqi officials on Saturday said the city “has basically reduced the social infection rate to zero” and will “restore normal life order to residents in low-risk areas one day at a time.” organized and orderly manner”.
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