‘No to arrests’: China protests against ‘zero Covid’ policy – World

Lockdown protests erupted in Shanghai, universities in Beijing and other Chinese cities on Sunday amid growing anger over the country’s nearly three-year-old strict “zero Covid” policy.

In a video that has gone viral online and was geolocated by AFP in Shanghai, some protesters can be seen chanting “Xi Jinping, resign!” he seems to be shouting. and also an attack on the Chinese Communist Party, a rare display of hostility toward the president and regime in the country’s economic capital, which suffered a grueling two-month arrest earlier in the year.

“A few minor quibbles”

This protest took place in the morning on Vulumuqi Street in Urumqi, Xinjiang (west). Many posts on social media in China have accused anti-Covid measures of exacerbating the tragedy by slowing the arrival of relief.

A person who took part in the protests in Shanghai, who did not want to be named, told AFP that he arrived at the rally around two in the morning. “One group of mourners laid flowers on the sidewalk, while another group shouted slogans,” the witness said.

“There were a few small scuffles, but overall the police were civil,” he said. “It’s crazy to know there are so many brave people still standing out under these circumstances,” he said.

In a video shot by a witness, a large crowd can be seen waving white sheets of paper symbolizing censorship in front of several cordons of police. Several witnesses said at least two people were taken away by security forces.

During the day on Sunday, the neighborhood was calm again with a strong police presence. An AFP reporter saw people carrying flowers as the police approached.

200-300 students demonstrate in Beijing

Between 200 and 300 students from the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing also demonstrated on their campus on Sunday, according to a witness interviewed by AFP and footage posted on social media.

He said that around 11:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), a female student started holding a white sheet of paper and was joined by other women. “We sang the national anthem and the International and chanted the slogans ‘freedom will triumph’, ‘we want food, not PCR tests’, ‘we want freedom, not prisons'”.

Videos circulating online show a crowd gathering around a speaker outside a university cafeteria: “This is not normal life, we are fed up. Our life was not like this before! »

Another video taken from the same location showed students shouting “Democracy and the rule of law, freedom of speech”, but it was quickly deleted from the Internet.

According to one student who attended, vigils in memory of the victims of the Urumqi fire were held on other campuses across the country, including Peking University, which neighbors Tsinghua University. According to this witness, the protesters started gathering in the campus around 00:00 on Saturday evening, and the crowd reached 100-200 people around 2:00. “I heard people shouting: ‘No to Covid tests, yes to freedom,'” he said, showing AFP photos and videos confirming his statement.

Videos on social media also showed a major vigil at the Institute of Communications in Nanjing (east), where white paper sheets were held by participants, as well as smaller gatherings in Xian, Wuhan (center) and Guangzhou (south), but the authenticity of these images could not be confirmed by AFP.

Hashtags related to the protests have been censored on the Weibo platform, and sensitive videos have been removed from the Duoyin and Kuaishou sharing sites.

Arrests and quarantines

Sporadic and sometimes violent protests have been held across the country in recent days, including at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central Zhengzhou, as well as in Urumqi following the fire.

Despite the fact that there are few vaccines available, and the rest of the world, the country continues to impose mass arrests, quarantine those who test positive in centers, and require almost daily PCR tests at the slightest sign of a case. for access to public places. .

After almost three years of strict restrictions, the fatigue of the population is great. Discontent has been fueled by a series of high-profile cases where emergency services have been allegedly slowed by health restrictions that have led to deaths, such as the Urumqi fire on Thursday.

China reported 39,506 Covid cases on Sunday, a daily record compared to figures elsewhere in the world at the peak of the pandemic.

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