Home News Protests against “zero Covid” policy take on unprecedented scale in China

Protests against “zero Covid” policy take on unprecedented scale in China

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In memory of observers, this is unheard of since the occupation of Tiananmen Square in June 1989. This weekend, in several cities in China, hundreds of people spontaneously took to the streets to protest against the draconian “zero Covid” policy of the Chinese authorities. Even rarer, many expressed hostility towards President Xi Jinping’s regime and the Chinese Communist Party.

Zero Covid policy puts China under pressure

In Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan (in the center of the country), Urumqi (in Xinjiang)… the demonstrators denounced the unexpected, massive and endless confinements to the discovery of the slightest case, the systematic quarantine of contact cases in camps and the negative PCR tests required almost daily to gain access to public space. This discontent has been fueled by several high-profile cases in which emergency services, during accidents, were allegedly slowed down by health restrictions, with fatal consequences.

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But it was the fire on Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province (west), killing ten people, which acted as a spark, if not a general conflagration, of collective indignation.

Anger mounts over China’s ‘zero Covid’ policy after deadly fire

Many posts circulating on social networks have accused the anti-Covid measures of having aggravated this tragedy, cars parked for weeks due to confinement in the narrow alley leading to the burning building having hampered the arrival of rescue. Despite censorship, dozens of videos have been posted showing the extent of the mobilizations.

In Shanghai, chanted “Xi Jinping resignation”

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people demonstrated in silence in the center of Shanghai, the economic capital of the country, a metropolis of 25 million inhabitants subjected at the beginning of the year to an exhausting two-month confinement. Brandishing white flowers and sheets of white paper – which have become a symbol of protest against censorship – the protesters posted themselves silently at several intersections before being dispersed by the police, according to witnesses.

Another protest had already taken place the previous night not far from there. A video widely circulated on the internet and geotagged by AFP showed people shouting “Xi Jinping, resign! » and also go after the Chinese Communist Party. This first protest took place at dawn on Sunday in Wulumuqi Street – the Mandarin name for the city of Urumqi. “There were a few minor scuffles but overall the policing was civilized”said a witness to AFP. “It’s crazy to know that in these circumstances, there are still so many brave people who stand out”he exclaimed.

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Several witnesses reported that at least two people were taken away by the security forces. Asked by AFP, the local police did not react.

Protests at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University

Between 200 and 300 students from the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing – where Xi Jinping studied – also demonstrated on their campus on Sunday, according to a witness interviewed by AFP and images published on social networks.

This witness reported that around 11:30 a.m. (3:30 GMT), a female student started by brandishing a sheet of white paper and was joined by other women. “We sang the national anthem and the International, and chanted: “freedom will triumph”, “no PCR tests, we want food”, “no to confinements, we want freedom””said this witness again.

On the internet, videos showed a crowd in front of the university canteen, gathered around a speaker who shouted: “It’s not a normal life, we’ve had enough. Our lives weren’t like this before! » Another video apparently taken from the same location showed students shouting: “democracy and rule of law, freedom of expression”but it was quickly removed from the internet.

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A vigil in memory of the victims of the Urumqi fire also took place on the night of Saturday to Sunday at Peking University, neighboring Tsinghua University. According to a student who participated, the protesters began to gather on Saturday evening around midnight on campus, and the crowd reached between 100 and 200 people.

“I heard people shouting: ‘no to Covid tests, yes to freedom’”he said, showing AFP photos and videos corroborating his statements.

According to a former BBC journalist, more than 50 universities have been the scene of protests.

Wuhan joins the movement

Almost three years to the day after the detection of the world’s first case of Covid-19 in this city, hundreds of people demonstrated Sunday evening in Wuhan, in central China. According to videos broadcast live on social networks and geolocated by AFP, a crowd of angry residents were gathered.

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Videos on social networks also showed a large vigil at the Institute of Communications in Nanjing (east), as well as small gatherings in Xian and Guangzhou (south), but the authenticity of these images could not be confirmed. be verified by AFP. Videos showed Lanzhou residents overturning the test stands.


Hashtags relating to the protests were censored on the Weibo platform, and sensitive videos were deleted from the Duoyin and Kuaishou sharing sites.

Another subterfuge visibly used: invading Twitter with escort-girl advertisements to complicate the search for information on the social network. “Chinese bots are flooding Twitter with escort ads, perhaps to make it harder for Chinese users to access information about mass protests. Some of these accounts had been inactive for years, and became active yesterday after protests began in China.indicates this Internet user.

Sporadic and sometimes violent protests have already taken place across the country in recent days, including at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central Zhengzhou.

China recorded 39,506 Covid cases on Sunday, a daily record that remains very low compared to figures recorded elsewhere in the world at the height of the pandemic.

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