Thousands of protestors demonstrated against Chinese President Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy in cities throughout China over the weekend, prompting some to openly advocate for his removal in the streets.
“Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” shouted some demonstrators among hundreds gathered in Shanghai, one of many major cities where demonstrations erupted after a tragic fire Thursday at an apartment building in the remote western province of Xinjiang.
After footage surfaced suggesting that lockdown procedures delayed firemen from reaching the victims, the incident seemed to function as a catalyst for searing public fury over China's draconian zero-Covid regulations.
Residents came from Shanghai to the capital Beijing to mourn the ten people who died in the conflagration in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, to speak out against zero-Covid, and to demand freedom and democracy. Students marched or displayed protest posters on dozens of university campuses. Following enormous anti-lockdown demonstrations in Urumqi on Friday night, citizens in locked-down communities tore down barriers and marched to the streets around the nation.
Such extensive displays of anger and defiance – some of which lasted until the early hours of Monday morning – are very unusual in China, where the governing Communist Party mercilessly suppresses all forms of criticism. However, three years into the epidemic, many individuals have been driven to the breaking point by the government's constant use of lockdowns, Covid tests, and quarantines, as well as ever-tightening censorship and an attack on personal liberties.
The recent tightening of rules, along with a slew of devastating deaths attributed on overzealous enforcement, has brought things to a climax.
Chinese stock markets and the yuan fell early Monday over concerns about the government's anticipated response to the protests, which varied by city and were more heavy-handed in certain places as the weekend proceeded.
Despite the fact that the demonstrations made worldwide news, Chinese official media ran articles and opinion pieces emphasizing the seriousness of the Covid epidemic and the necessity to keep fighting it.
"Practices have demonstrated that our Covid measures can withstand the test of time, that they are scientific and effective," according to an opinion article published on Monday by the Xinhua news agency. "Persistence pays off."