Hundreds of people took to the streets in China’s major cities on Sunday to protest the country’s zero-Covid policy, in a rare display of public outrage against the government.
China’s hardline viral strategy is infuriating the people, who are tire of sudden lockdowns, protracted quarantines, and huge testing campaigns.
A deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, on Thursday sparked new public outrage, with many blaming Covid lockdowns for impeding rescue efforts. The claims are denied by authorities.
On Sunday night, between 300 and 400 people gathered for several hours on the banks of a river in Beijing’s capital, shouting: “We are all Xinjiangians! Chinese people, rejoice!”
AFP reporters on the site described the gathering singing the national anthem and listening to speakers, while a line of police cars waited on the other side of the canal bank.
Cars honked in solidarity as hundreds of people who stayed into midnight (1600 GMT) waved blank sheets of paper to represent censorship.
Several livestreams that were quickly removed showed hordes of people cheering and photographing on their phones as they paraded through the streets of Wuhan, China’s largest metropolis.
Crowds gathered overnight, some of whom chanted “Step aside, Xi Jinping! Step down, CCP!” — had dissipated by the morning.
However, in the afternoon, hundreds of people gathered in the same spot with blank sheets of paper. And flowers for what appeared to be a quiet protest, according to one eyewitness.
The mob was chanting in social media footage from the area, which appear to be record in the late afternoon.
At one intersection, footage from multiple angles showed a man holding a bouquet of yellow flowers. Being dragged into a police car as onlookers yelled.
By the evening, dozens of police officers in yellow high-visibility jackets had formed. A thick line, cordoning off the streets where the protests had occurred.
Multiple people get arrest, according to AFP, as cops advise people to leave the area.
A foreigner who requested anonymity told AFP that he witnessed. A confrontation as police directed a crowd away from Wulumuqi Street.
“It appeared that the police were seeking for persons suspected of leading the protests,” he stated.
“There was tension in the air, but there was also excitement and enthusiasm… Protesters used the’step down!’ refrain from the previous days to aim their rage onto the police and the party.”