‘Xi Jinping step down’: Protests flare over China’s zero-Covid policy; all you need to know

Business Today Desk

For a third day straight, protests continued in China, with President Xi Jinping’s government facing mounting anger at its zero-Covid policy. China, which continues to grapple with the spread of coronavirus, saw over 40,000 new infections on Sunday, while hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night over Covid restrictions.

The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago. The protest comes on the back of President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-Covid policy, which has been in place since the pandemic began in 2020.

What’s happening in China?

In China, where street demonstrations are extremely rare, anger and frustration have mounted after the deaths of 10 people in an apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang. The public believe the deaths were a result of excessive lockdown measures which delayed rescue. At least 10 people were killed and nine injured when the fire broke out, according to the local fire department. 

In Urumqi, a city with a population of 4 million, some people have been locked down for as long as 100 days.

Also, in the country’s most populous city Shanghai, residents gathered on Saturday night at Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi, for a candlelight vigil. However, that turned into a protest soon.

The crowd held up blank sheets of paper representing a protest symbol against censorship. Videos from the protest site show people shout: “Lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China.

Demonstrators were also seen shouting, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping”, according to witnesses and videos.

Sunday saw a large crowd gather in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, according to videos on social media, where they held up blank sheets of paper and chanted: “We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors,” a reference to Xi, who has scrapped presidential term limits.
In the central city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began three years ago, videos on social media showed hundreds of residents take to the streets, smashing through metal barricades, overturning COVID testing tents and demanding an end to lockdowns.

Other cities that have seen public dissent include Lanzhou in the northwest, where residents on Saturday overturned COVID staff tents and smashed testing booths, posts on social media showed. Protesters said they were put under lockdown even though no one had tested positive.

At Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Sunday, dozens of people held a peaceful protest against COVID restrictions during which they sang the national anthem, according to images and videos posted on social media.

What is the zero-Covid policy?

China, where the first case of the coronavirus was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan city, follows a “zero-Covid” strategy, which includes mass testing, strict isolation rules, travel restrictions and local lockdowns. China believes in taking dynamic measures in areas where Covid-19 rears its head in order to root it out. The zero-Covid policy aims at eliminating Covid-19 cases rather than mitigating them.

It is also to be noted that China defends the policy saying it is a “reality” that coronavirus is still lingering while describing Beijing’s measures as the “most cost-effective”.

According to Sun Yeli, spokesperson for the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China’s measures to tackle COVID-19 have worked well for the country and the zero-COVID policy is a science-based policy.

Yeli further added that it is a part of its epidemic response efforts and the dynamic zero-COVID policy has been adopted in light of China’s national realities and it is a science-based policy.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also Read: ‘Xi Jinping step down’: Massive protests in China over zero-Covid policy

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