Protests erupted across China, including in universities and Shanghai, where hundreds of people chanted, “Stand down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented display of defiance against the country’s strict and increasingly costly zero-Covid policy.
A deadly fire at an apartment building in the country’s far western Xinjiang region, which killed 10 people and injured nine on Thursday, appears to have fueled anger as a video emerged that seemed to suggest lockdown measures caused the firefighters did not reach the victims.
According to social media videos and witness accounts, protests erupted in cities and universities across China on Saturday and early Sunday morning.
Videos widely circulated on Chinese social media show hundreds of people lighting candles in downtown Shanghai on Saturday to mourn those killed in the fire in Xinjiang.
The crowd later held up blank sheets of white paper — in what is traditionally a symbolic protest against censorship — and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”
In multiple videos seen by DailyExpertNews, people could be heard demanding Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to “step down”. The audience also chanted “Don’t want a Covid test, want freedom!” and “I don’t want dictatorship, I want democracy!”
Some videos show people singing China’s national anthem and the Internationale, a standard of the socialist movement, while holding banners protesting Beijing’s exceptionally strict pandemic measures.
Protests have also broken out in the capital Beijing. A student at the prestigious Peking University told DailyExpertNews that when he arrived at the protest scene around 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, there were about 100 students and guards were using coats to cover a protest slogan painted on the wall.
“Say no to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to the Covid test, yes to food,” the message read in red paint, echoing the slogan of a protest that took place on a Beijing overpass in October just days before a major Communist Party rally at which Xi secured a third term in office. current.
“Open your eyes and look at the world, dynamic zero Covid is a lie,” read the protest slogan at Peking University.
The student said guards later daubed the slogan with black paint.
Students later gathered to sing the Internationale before being dispersed by teachers and guards.
In eastern Jiangsu province, dozens of students from Communication University of China, Nanjing gathered to mourn those who died in the fire in Xinjiang. Videos show the students holding up sheets of white paper and mobile phone flashlights.
In one video, a university official could be heard warning students, “You will pay for what you did today.”
“You too, and the country too,” one student shouted in response.