“Xi Jinping resigns!”:Thousands of protesters against “zero Covid” in several Chinese cities

Hundreds of people took to the streets on Sunday in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and other cities across China to protest over-the-top lockdowns, a rare show of hostility to President Xi Jinping’s regime and his policies of ” zero Covid” draconian practiced for nearly three years.

Unexpected, massive and endless confinements to the discovery of the slightest case, systematic quarantine of contact cases in camps and negative PCR tests required almost daily to have access to public space are increasingly exasperating the Chinese population.

Discontent stoked by several high-profile cases in which the emergency services would have been slowed down in their interventions by health restrictions, with fatal consequences.

A fire that killed ten people Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province (northwest), exacerbated these recriminations. The authors of many messages circulating on social networks claimed that the measures taken against the Covid had aggravated this drama, cars parked for weeks due to confinement in the narrow alley leading to the burning building having hampered the help arrives.

“Xi Jinping resigns!”

On Sunday evening, police trying to move people away from the scene of a previous demonstration clashed with groups of protesters in central Shanghai, a megalopolis whose 25 million inhabitants experienced at the beginning of the year for two months in exhausting isolation, noted an AFP journalist.

A crowd had gathered on Wulumuqi (Urumqi in Mandarin) Street earlier in the day and a video widely circulated on social media and geotagged by AFP showed protesters chanting “Xi Jinping, quit! CCP (Chinese Communist Party , editor’s note), withdraw!”.

The police dispersed the protesters in the morning, but in the afternoon hundreds of people had gathered in the same area, an eyewitness told AFP.

Protesters who sported blank pieces of paper symbolizing censorship and white flowers stood silently at several intersections, he said, on condition of anonymity.

Videos posted on social media in the area that appeared to have been taken in the late afternoon showed the crowd chanting slogans.

In footage taken from several different angles, a man could be seen with a bouquet of yellow flowers in his hand dragged to a police car, while onlookers shouted.

Hundreds of protesters in Wuhan

In the evening, dozens of police in yellow vests formed a thick line, cordoning off the streets where the demonstrations had taken place.

Their colleagues asked people to leave the place, but some still crowded together and AFP witnessed the arrest of several people.

Other police arrived later.

Live on Instagram, footage showed law enforcement officers closing in on a group from both sides of the street and forcing them back to the sidewalks.

“The police appeared to be looking for individuals suspected of leading the protests,” said a foreigner who wished to remain anonymous.

“The atmosphere was very tense, but there was also excitement and energy… The demonstrators directed their anger at the police and the (Communist) party, repeating the refrain ‘remove- you !’ of the last few days”.

On Sunday evening, between 300 and 400 people gathered for several hours on the banks of a river in Beijing, some shouting: “We are all people from Xinjiang! Come on Chinese people!” Reported journalists from the AFP present on site.

Protestors sang the national anthem and listened to speeches, while across the river a line of police cars waited.

Hundreds of people have also marched in the streets of Wuhan, in central China, against health restrictions, almost three years to the day after the detection of the first world case of Covid-19 in this city, according to videos. broadcast live on social networks and geolocated by AFP.

Unrest in universities

Between 200 and 300 students from the prestigious Tsinghua University in the capital also protested the same day on their campus, said a witness interviewed by AFP.

He said that around 11:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), a student started by brandishing a sheet of white paper and was joined by other women.

“We sang the national anthem and the International and chanted: + freedom will triumph +, + no PCR tests, we want food +, + no to confinements, we want freedom +”, said this witness again.

On the internet, videos showed a crowd outside the university canteen, gathered around a speaker who shouted: “This is not a normal life, we’ve had enough. Our lives were not like this before! “

Another video that showed students shouting “democracy and rule of law, freedom of speech” was quickly removed from the internet.

A vigil in memory of the victims of the Urumqi fire also took place on the night of Saturday to Sunday at Peking University, neighboring that of Tsinghua. According to a student who participated, the protesters began to gather on Saturday evening around midnight on campus and the crowd reached between 100 and 200 people.

“I heard people shouting: + no to Covid tests, yes to freedom +!”, He underlined, submitting to AFP photos and videos corroborating his statements.

Videos on social networks also showed a large vigil at the Institute of Communications in Nanjing (east), as well as small gatherings in Xian (center) and Guangzhou (south), but the authenticity of these images does not could not be verified by AFP.

Hashtags relating to these events were censored on the Weibo platform, and sensitive videos were deleted from the Duoyin and Kuaishou sharing websites.

Sporadic and sometimes violent protests had already taken place in China in recent days, notably in the world’s largest iPhone factory located in Zhengzhou (center), as well as in Urumqi after the disaster.

39,506 cases of Covid were recorded on Sunday in Chinese territory, a daily record but a figure which remains very low compared to those recorded elsewhere in the world at the height of the pandemic.