There have been protests and vigils in multiple cities and universities – a rare mass public movement in China.
In China, people are continuing to protest against COVID lockdown restrictions after a deadly apartment fire. For some, this was the final straw before they reached their breaking point.
Across the country, demonstrators have been rising up in protest and defying laws designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some individuals have taken to the streets with sheets of blank white paper instead of traditional protest signs as a criticism of censorship, which limits citizens from being able to speak freely.
After a fire in Xinjiang left at least 10 people dead, which critics say was due to stay-at-home measures leading to locked doors, protests are now intensifying. In major cities like Shanghai, agitation is growing to demand the end of the ruling party and President Xi Jinping’s resignation. Social media clips show thousands of people chanting “Communist Party step down, Xi Jinping step down.”
Hunan: “We are all in the same building, only the fire hasn’t reached us yet. For Xinjiang, for us, we should not be silent.” They lift their arms in the motion of holding a sheet of blank paper (the new protest sign after police confiscated some papers), then join hands together https://t.co/wTixBqORNh— Alice Su 蘇奕安 (@aliceysu) November 27, 2022
Other protests focused more on country-specific COVID policies. In Beijing, protesters gathered to call for an end to excessive testing and chanted, “We don’t want PCR tests, we want freedom.”
The #ZeroCovid protests have made it to Beijing. At least 1000 people have gathered starting 9.30pm near Liangma River. Chanting the Banner man slogan: “We don’t want PCR tests, we want freedom” pic.twitter.com/LBWsiPapK8— Xifan Yang 杨希璠 (@yangxifan) November 27, 2022
China’s goal of reaching zero COVID infections via lockdowns, tests, and contact tracing has led to a halt in communities. The residents of an apartment building were placed under lockdown more than 100 days before the fire broke out. When the fire happened, a local official denied that COVID was to blame instead saying they were too weak to rescue themselves during the fire.
The Associated Press has reported that demonstrations have taken place on 50 university campuses, including the prestigious Tsinghua University. At this school, where Xi Jinping attended and graduated from, protestors shouted slogans like “freedom will prevail” to show their dissent.
In remembrance of the people who lost their lives in the Xinjiang fire, citizens attended vigils across Beijing, Guangdong, Shanghai, and Wuhan. They laid flowers on the ground, lit candles to honor their memories, and raised their voices together in song as police surrounded them.
Outraged over the election of a new president, many people took to the streets in protest. These scenes have been described as a rare moment in American history where civil disobedience is the norm.
Beijing right now: police have arrived but people gathered to mourn the Xinjiang fire victims are peacefully surrounding them and singing pic.twitter.com/BOt9YHCNO3— Vivian Wang (@vwang3) November 27, 2022
Multiple journalists have witnessed arrests. According to the BBC, private security and plainclothes officers detain protesters who chanted anti-government slogans.
Amnesty International, released a statement urging the Chinese government to review its COVID restrictions. The penalties for speaking out may be severe.
Young went on to discuss the predictability of China, “China’s playbook is all too predictable.”
“We will most likely see police use of force and mass arrests against protesters. People who are peacefully protesting are expected to be sentenced to long prison terms.”