Crowds protest strict COVID policies in China: ‘Xi Jinping! Step down!’

Residents line up for COVID-19 tests in Beijing, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Protests broke out across China on Sunday as frustration grows with the country’s “zero COVID” strategy, which has put millions of people in lockdown as cases rise to record levels.

Demonstrations from the night before resurfaced in the capital of Beijing and the financial hub of Shanghai in addition to other major cities, and the protests at times turned violent as police sought to break them up, The Associated Press reported.

The protests materialized after an apartment building fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi, located in China’s Xinjiang region.

The fire killed 10 people and injured nine others, and resentment has swelled as some suggest the lockdown measures in place in the city delayed firefighters’ response and efforts to save the victims.

In Shanghai, protesters early Sunday morning chanted “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!” while standing on a road named for the city of Urumqi, a rare show of defiance of the country’s leader, the AP noted.

Hours after being cleared by police, crowds returned to the street, shouting “We don’t want PCR tests, we want freedom!”

Xi, who recently began his third term as China’s leader and increasingly surrounded himself with loyalists, has continued the “zero COVID” strategy as the country approaches the three-year anniversary of discovering its first case.

The strategy, in which officials attempt to isolate every case and eliminate the spread of COVID-19, has led residents in parts of the country to be in lockdowns for months.

Daily cases nationwide topped 30,000 last week, a record level for the country.

Millions of Shanghai residents experienced a multi-month lockdown earlier this year as cases spread there, making the city a potent hub for the protests.

The AP reported that demonstrations have taken in place in cities across the country, with a crowdsourced list showing protests at 50 universities.

Videos have shown protesters in Nanjing in the east, Guangzhou in the south and at least six other cities, where demonstrators have taken apart barricades used to seal off neighborhoods, it added.

— Updated at 8:37 a.m.

Tags China protests Xi Jinping Xi Jinping zero COVID
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