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China is witnessing rare street protests and demonstrations now uniting workers, ethnic minorities, students and urban residents all calling for an end to the ‘zero-Covid’ policy that has turned the entire country into a prison. Such unrest is unprecedented in recent Chinese history… Following a fire on November 25 in a high-rise in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang in western China, that saw the death of several victims, possibly due to drastic lockdown of buildings and streets across China as a result of Xi Jinping’s ‘Zero-Covid” policy, residents of the city – both Uyghurs and Han Chinese, took to the streets to demand less crippling sanitary measures…” (“Rare street protests across China: Is Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy turning people against their government? A single voice stating anger publicly started a fire” by Filip Noubel 27 November 2022 – Read the rest, below, after the more updated Guardian excerpts) NB: Han Chinese are the majority ethnic group in China.

Clashes in Shanghai as protests over zero-Covid policy grip China
Beijing, Chengdu and Wuhan see demonstrations as anger over Xi Jinping’s strict Covid policies builds, in a test for the Communist party
”, By Helen Davidson [1] in Taipei and Verna Yu [2] Mon 28 Nov 2022 00.08 GMT https://www.theguardian.com
Hundreds of demonstrators and police have clashed in Shanghai as protests over China’s stringent Covid restrictions flared for a third day and spread to several cities, in the biggest test for president Xi Jinping since he secured a historic third term in power. [3]

The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China in the past decade, as frustration mounts over Xi’s signature zero-Covid policy [4] nearly three years into the pandemic.

Protests triggered by a deadly apartment fire in the far west of the country [5] last week took place on Sunday in cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Guangzhou.

On Monday China [6] reported a new daily record of new Covid-19 infections, with 40,347 cases. The cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing, with thousands of cases, are struggling to contain outbreaks. Hundreds of infections were also recorded in several other cities across the country.

Chinese stocks fell sharply as investors raised concerns over the impact of the protests on the world’s second-largest economy.

In the early hours of Monday in Beijing, two groups of protesters totalling at least 1,000 people were gathered along the Chinese capital’s 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.

On Sunday in Shanghai, police kept a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, which is named
after Urumqi, and where a candlelight vigil the day before turned into protests.

“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 in Shanghai who declined to be identified.

“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.”

By Sunday evening, hundreds of people gathered in the area. Some jostled with police trying to disperse them. People held up blank sheets of paper as an expression of protest.
On Saturday, people in Shanghai had chanted [7] “No PCR tests, we want freedom!” followed by rounds of repeated calls for “Freedom! Freedom!”
[…]
Frustration is boiling just over a month after Xi secured a third term at the helm of China’s Communist party, and much of the anger is being directed at China’s leader.

In a video on social media, a protestor accused Xi of locking people up and confining them to their homes.

“Xi Jinping step down, Communist Party step down”, he says in the post that has been widely shared…” Guardian excerpts Open Licence: “Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”. “Up to 500 words” (per article) in a personal blog along with a link back to theguardian.com. Read the rest of the article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/28/clashes-in-shanghai-as-protests-over-zero-covid-policy-grip-china Links from article:
[1] https://www.theguardian.com/profile/helen-davidson, [2] https://www.theguardian.com/profile/verna-yu, [3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/23/xi-jinping-to-rule-china-for-precedent-breaking-third-term, [4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/04/rumours-of-zero-covid-easing-spread-in-china-amid-anger-at-restrictions, [5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/26/covid-lockdown-protests-break-out-in-western-china-after-deadly-fire, [6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/china, [7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwATngtX620 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/28/clashes-in-shanghai-as-protests-over-zero-covid-policy-grip-china

From Global Voices:
Rare street protests across China: Is Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy turning people against their government? A single voice stating anger publicly started a fire Written by Filip Noubel Posted 27 November 2022 21:53 GMT https://globalvoices.org/

China is witnessing rare street protests and demonstrations now uniting workers, ethnic minorities, students and urban residents all calling for an end to the ‘zero-Covid’ policy that has turned the entire country into a prison. Such unrest is unprecedented in recent Chinese history, and bears similarities with the 1989 demonstrations that were crushed on June 4th on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Following a fire on November 25 [1] in a high-rise in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang in western China, that saw the death of several victims, possibly due to drastic lockdown of buildings and streets across China as a result of Xi Jinping’s ‘Zero-Covid” policy, residents of the city – both Uyghurs and Han Chinese, took to the streets to demand less crippling sanitary measures.

The ‘Zero-COVID’ policy [2] aims a preventing any community spread and is heavily enforced in China. This means social but also economic life is often paralyzed, travel severely restricted. The policy has lead to starvation [3], as people are unable to shop for basic food, and increasing frustration for hundreds of millions of people.

The fact that demonstrations took place in Ürümqi is alarming for Beijing that continues a policy of genocide towards the Uyghur population [4] in the region. The city witnessed ethnic clashes in 2009 [5] that left nearly 200 people dead.

Spreading like wildfire

What is particularly unusual, and certainly extremely worrisome for Chinese authorities is that, despite severe censorship of social media and traditional media, news about the victims and the protests in Ürümqi, have circulated rapidly across the country, causing people in other cities to react and engage in similar behaviour.

Clearly, the tension between the people and the government has been simmering for quite some time. On October 13 [6], days before the Chinese Communist Party Congress that confirmed Xi Jinping’s mandate at the head of the country, a protestor put banner on a central bridge in Beijing demanding the end of ‘zero-COVID’ measures. Such public manifestations of discontent are extremely rare and usually removed within minutes given China ultra sophisticated system of surveillance and face recognition, particularly in large cities.

Later, on November 23 [7], workers from a factory producing Apple iPhones in Henan province, Foxconn, protested against the same sanitary measures, and clashed with security forces.

And then something really unexpected happened: starting from November 26, students and urban residents across the country decided to honour the dead of Ürümqi by staging their own public remembrance. Those actions very rapidly turned into campus dissent and street demonstrations in cities such as Chengdu, Shanghai, Beijing.

Global Voices spoke to Vivian Wu, a native from Beijing who is currently based in New York and who is actively covering the unrest from her Twitter account. Wu is a seasoned journalist and media entrepreneur who served as BBC Hong Kong Head and as journalist and editor in n the South China Morning Post and Initium Media.

As she explains, the sense of solidarity comes from the realization that everyone’s life is now at risk, because of the ‘Zero-COVID’ policy:
“The tragedy in Ürümqi – when you are blocked or prevented from running out and die as a result – could happen to anyone in China. That is why people are outraged across the country. Everyone is locked up in all the major cities, at a time when the world is opening up, people are going back to normal life. Whereas in China there is a tightening of those policies. Xi Jinping enforces the ‘zero-COVID policy to show he is a winner in the pandemic. People were hoping that measures would be loosening up but local governments want to show their loyalty to Xi Jinping, so very often, they actually scale up the policy.”

This comes on top of years of accumulated frustration, as Wu details:
“A significant amount of people is now aware that this policy is inhumane, and economically harmful: so many businesses, restaurants, schools have shut down. People suffer financially – an unprecedented situation after 30 years of economic reforms and rapid GDP growth. People also saw that during the World Cup no one is wearing a mask, while in China people are sometimes locked down for 100 days.”

But perhaps what inspired many is that happened on October 13 on that bridge in Beijing, she argues:

“The Sitong Bridge incident set a fire: the man behind it, Peng Zaizhou [8] also issued a statement to ask Xi Jinping to step down. His requests are now being chanted right now all over the streets of China’s largest cities. Peng became a model – a single voice stating anger publicly. This is unprecedented in a country with no freedom of speech, no right to demonstrate even in small groups. People are desperate and feel they have nothing to lose after nearly three years of drastic policies. Students have also used very smart means to express their rejection of the ‘Zero-COVID’ policies, the lack of freedom on campuses, as can be seens from images now circulating on social media.”

Shocking images of protest in a heavily-policed state 

Wu is covering the demonstrations live as photos, videos and comments surface in China and are rapidly copied before they get erased on censored social media. Some people also send videos to friends abroad and ask them to post them outside of the Chinese internet.
Here, she shares scenes from Sichuan’s capital Chengdu that, for anyone familiar with China, are a very rare occurrence: people marching and protesting while no police can be seen trying to stop or detain people:

This scene shows a peaceful protest, explaining the idea is to remember the Ürümqi victims, while the main speaker is clearly not afraid of the police – again something very unusual in today’s China:

A similar scene in central Beijing, where seeing people holding simple protest signs is simply difficult to imagine in any other circumstances, given the presence of embassies in that area and the desire of the Chinese government to always show its society as ‘harmonious; and free from any social trouble:

In this video, the question of the future for young Chinese people is out directly to the police:

And here in Shanghai, where people gather on Ürümqi street to commemorate the victims, the police removes the street sign in an effort to manage the unprecedented demonstrations in a city known for its usual political

More videos can also be seen at the China Protest 2022 Twitter account. https://twitter.com/china_protest
The question everyone is asking now is how will the Chinese government react to such widespread demonstrations that cross social, ethnic and geographic boundaries.
Categories
* East Asia,China
* Breaking News, Censorship, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech, Health, Human Rights, Labor Protest Written by Filip Noubel

[1] https://apnews.com/article/china-fires-6a1b6902e6ccf87e064f1232045a2848
[2] https://www.dw.com/en/what-is-chinas-zero-covid-policy/a-61736418
[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-62830326
[4] https://globalvoices.org/specialcoverage/2020-special-coverage/documenting-state-directed-persecution-of-minorities-in-chinas-xinjiang-region/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_2009_Ürümqi_riots
[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/14/we-all-saw-it-anti-xi-jinping-protest-electrifies-chinese-internet
[7] https://globalvoices.org/2022/11/25/what-role-does-the-chinese-government-play-in-the-latest-foxconn-workers-protest/
[8] https://chinachange.org/2022/10/19/bridge-man-peng-zaizhous-mission-impossible-and-his-toolkit-for-the-removal-of-xi-jinping/
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The original article is missing at least one word after political: “And here in Shanghai, where people gather on Ürümqi street to commemorate the victims, the police removes the street sign in an effort to manage the unprecedented demonstrations in a city known for its usual political”. So, political apathy, perhaps?