Zero Covid policy puts China under pressure

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

In a video that went viral online and was geolocated by AFP in Shanghai, some protesters can be seen shouting. “Xi Jinping, resign! » and also attacking 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.

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

The protest took place in the early hours of the morning on Wulumuqi Street, the Mandarin name of Urumqi in Xinjiang (west), where ten people died in a fire on Thursday. Many posts on social media in China have accused anti-Covid measures of exacerbating the tragedy by delaying the arrival of relief.

Strong police presence

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, another group chanted slogans”this witness said.

‘Shanghai is no better than Pyongyang’: The devastation of China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy

“There were a few minor incidents, but overall the police were civil.”he continued. “It’s crazy to know that there are so many brave people who still stand out under these circumstances”he shouted.

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.

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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.

University events

Several hundred students at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University also demonstrated on their campus on Sunday, according to a witness interviewed by AFP and footage posted on social media.

“At 11:30 (03:30 GMT), students started holding signs at the entrance of the canteen. Then more and more people joined them. Now there are 200-300 people. We sang the national anthem and the International and chanted the slogan “freedom will triumph”.this student told AFP.

“We sang the national anthem and the Internationale and chanted slogans: “freedom will triumph”, “we want food, not PCR tests”, “we want freedom, not prison””, another witness said. Online videos show a crowd gathering around the speaker outside a university cafeteria: “This is not a normal life, we have lived enough. Our life was not like this before! »

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Another video taken from the same location shows students screaming “Democracy and rule of law, freedom of expression”but it was quickly removed from the internet.

A witness told AFP that the vice-secretary of the Communist Party was talking to students at the university, and many began to leave. He added that the police have not yet arrived at the scene.


According to one participating student, vigils in memory of the Urumqi victims have been held at other universities in the country, including the equally prestigious Peking University.

According to this witness, anti-political slogans “zero covid” The protestors behind the wall of this university started gathering on the campus at midnight on Saturday evening and the crowd reached 100-200 people around 2 am.

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“I heard people shouting: ‘No to Covid tests, yes to freedom'”he said, showing photos and videos confirming AFP’s statements.

Videos on social media also showed an important vigil at the Nanjing Institute of Communications (east), where participants also waved white sheets of paper. Other videos, whose authenticity AFP could not confirm, showed other smaller protests in the cities of Xian (center), Guangzhou (south) and Wuhan (center).

Authorities rushed to limit online discussion of the protests and delete videos.

Arrests and quarantines

Fatigue is growing in China against tough policies to combat the pandemic. Sporadic and sometimes violent protests have already been held in several other cities in recent days, including at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central Zhengzhou, as well as in Urumqi following the fire.

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A violent riot broke out at the country’s largest iPhone factory in China

Despite having few vaccines available, and unlike the rest of the world, the Asian nation continues to impose mass arrests, quarantine people who test positive, and require quasi-PCR tests at the slightest sign of a case. – diary. newspapers for access to public places.

A series of high-profile cases where emergency services have been slowed by health restrictions and led to deaths have fueled discontent.

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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