After an undeterred show of civil disobedience over the last five days, protests in various parts of China continue to take place. Over the weekend, thousands of citizens took to the streets demanding an end to the stringent Covid-19 induced restrictions called the ‘Zero-Covid policy’ in China. Many were also asking for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s resignation as he oversees the strategy of mass testing, lockdowns, enforced quarantine and digital tracking.
This is the first time in the decade since President Xi Jinping took power in China that people have out-rightly defied authorities in the forms of protests both on university campuses as well as on the streets of major cities in China. People are speaking out not only against the Covid restrictions but also against the increasing censorship and the Communist Party’s tightening grip over all aspects of civilian life. Protests are taking place in China as the number of daily Covid cases touch a record high of 40,000 this past Monday.
As dissent and public discontent swell across China , Police crackdowns also continue. . Police are out in force trying to stop the demonstrators by arresting and interrogating protestors. . An arrest was made in the city of Hangzhou on Monday where police were preventing people from congregating. In Shanghai and Beijing, police could be seen patrolling areas of the city where they suspected people could gather.
There have been some scattered reports of how authorities were asking about the whereabouts of demonstrators and checking people’s phones for virtual private networks. However, it is unclear how police may have discovered their identities. Security has been tightened in major cities as authorities have far-reaching surveillance and ever-growing security capabilities. Censorship has also gone into overdrive to prevent people from participating in or discussing the organization of protests.
CNN has verified 20 demonstrations which took place in 15 Chinese cities- from the economic hub of Shanghai to the Capital city of Beijing. The slogans chanted by demonstrators across regions have remained the same. People are calling for free speech, democracy, human rights and other political demands. Protests have also occurred in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest, and Nanjing in the east, where residents also reportedly clashed with police. In Wuhan, where the pandemic began in 2019, protesters destroyed barricades, overturned makeshift Covid testing tents and called for lifting the regulations. .
This most recent bout of mass protests were triggered by a deadly fire in Urumqi which killed ten people and injured nine in an apartment building. Viral videos show how firefighting operations were delayed due to lockdown measures, as Xinjiang has been under lockdown for 100 days.. As authorities failed to quell public anger, the protests spread beyond Xinjiang to other parts of China.
Until now, the Government of China and State media have maintained silence over the public frustration. A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday dismissed suggestions of dissent when he asked about taking action against the barbaric “Zero-Covid policy.”
Spokesperson Zhao Lijian added “What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened,” and authorities had been ‘making adjustments’ to their Covid policies based on ‘realities on the ground’. He further stated, , ”We believe that with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people our fight against Covid-19 will be successful.”