China: Beijing and Shanghai rocked with anti-lockdown protests
China has been rocked by protests against its government’s draconian Covid measures.
Thousands of demonstrators have come out in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities on Sunday over the country’s zero-cases policy, which includes repeated testing and people being barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
China is the only major country still fighting the virus with such restrictions, and the unusually bold move indicates the level of people’s desperation.
Crowds took to the streets on Friday in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi, chanting ‘End the lockdown’ and pumping their fists in the air.
The national anger was ignited by a devastating fire in the city on Thursday, which killed at least 10 people.
It is feared residents were unable to escape from a tower block engulfed in flames because of president Xi Jinping’s restrictions.
‘The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset,’ stresses Sean Li, a resident in Beijing.
Thousands of protesters have also turned out in Shanghai for a third day in a row despite police efforts to disperse them.
People were heard shouting slogans like ‘Xi Jinping, step down’ and ‘Communist party, step down’.
Some were seen holding up blank sheets of paper.
One Reuters witness saw at least seven people being taken away by police.
‘We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far,’ said a 26-year-old protester who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.
‘The people here aren’t violent, but the police are arresting them for no reason.
‘They tried to grab me but the people all around me grabbed my arms so hard and pulled me back so I could escape.’
Another protestor, Shaun Xiao, said: ‘I am here because I love my country, but I don’t love my government.
‘I want to be able to go out freely, but I can’t. Our Covid policy is a game and is not based on science or reality.’
The demonstrations appear to have spread to as many as 50 universities.
They come as Covid cases in the country have hit record highs for days, with nearly 40,000 new infections on Saturday.
China defends the policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.
Officials have vowed to continue with it despite the growing public pushback and its mounting economic toll.
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