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China cries for freedom from Xi Jinping, zero tolerance for zero-Covid diktat

Amrutha PagadNovember 28, 2022 | 10:11 IST

Anger and discontent have been brewing in the Chinese people for a while now. We have seen discontent erupt during riots, protests, and escapes at the Foxconn iPhone factory in Zhengzhou. But now, the discontent has spread to multiple major cities in China. 

From Beijing to Xinjiang, people have taken to the streets in numbers like never seen before in China in recent history, or more specifically since Xi Jinping became the premier. 

What's happening? Over the weekend and on Monday, November 28, Chinese people in large numbers have taken to the streets to protest against the government's draconian zero-Covid policy

📍Beijing and Shanghai

We want freedom, equality, democracy, rule of law... We don't want dictatorship.
- Chants by Chinese protesters

  • The anti-Covid policy protests have also turned the notch up on anti-regime chants, some even calling for Xi Jinping and the CCP to step down. 
  • It is very rare in China for protesters to directly target the Central government and pose a challenge to Xi Jinping's regime. 
Step down, the Communist Party...
- Chants by Chinese protesters

  • Some are even calling it the biggest uprising in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. 
  • In China's capital city Beijing, a crowd of some 100 protesters even tried to march to Tiananmen Square on Sunday night but were stopped by the police. 

I'm here for my future. You have to fight for your own future.
- A woman told AFP
  • Clashes between protesters and the police were also reported in Shanghai. In Beijing, a BBC journalist was assaulted and detained by the police. 

  • Protesters have also been tearing down Covid testing booths and quarantine barricades that have been set up on the roads. 

What triggered the protests? While the discontent over zero-Covid policy has been rising in China, it was a fire at a high-rise in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which seems to be the tipping point for the public's tolerance. 

  • Ten people including children were killed in the fire. 
  • The apartment was sealed down and barricaded by authorities as part of zero-Covid measures. When a fire broke out, the residents were unable to escape and firefighters were not able to get to them in time. 

Universities and protest symbols: University students in China have also joined in to protest against the Chinese government, including students from the popular Tsinghua University. 

  • At Tsinghua University, a slogan reading "f**king idiot, Xi Jinping" was hung from a dormitory building. Once again, this is a rare form of criticism against the Chinese government. 
A slogan outside a Tsinghua University dormitory hurls insult at Xi Jinping. Photo: @__Inty__/Twitter
  • Students at Tsinghua University also held up "Friedmann" equation as a protest symbol. "Friedmann" sounds like "free man". 

  • At the Communication University of China, Nanjing, students turned on flashlights on their phones in protest against the government and in solidarity with the victims of the Urumqi fire.

  • Elsewhere, people are holding up blank sheets of paper as a protest symbol. 
Chinese protesters in Beijing hold up black sheets of paper. Photo: AP

The Great Firewall of China: The many protest videos leaking out of China and its Great Firewall shows the severity of the protests and how widespread it is. In all the protest videos, protesters have turned on the camera against the police and authorities to document and show other people on what's happening. 

Covid cases in China: On the other hand, China is reporting a rise in daily Covid infections. On November 27, China reported a fifth straight daily high of 40,347 new COVID-19 cases. 

So far, Xi Jinping has ruled out easing the zero-Covid policy in China

While the rest of the world has accepted that they will have to live with Covid-19, China has been obsessed with bringing infections, which are low in comparison to global standards, to a zero. 

Last updated: November 28, 2022 | 14:49
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