Protests spreading against China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy

Shanghai, China, Nov 27 (EFE).- Protests against China’s stringent “Zero Covid” strategy has spread to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Nanjing by this weekend, following the deaths of 10 people in a fire in a building apparently under lockdown in Urumqi a few days ago.

According to videos and testimonies circulating on social media, the signs of indignation that flooded the heavily censored Chinese internet on Friday turned into vigils in memory of the victims, who allegedly were under home confinement for the last 100 days.

While the official press fails to report these incidents, videos posted showed numerous people removing the fences used to lockdown residential areas in northern Beijing’s Tiantongyuan, under its Zero Covid norms.

The Chinese capital, which has faced multiple lockdowns against outbreaks since 2020, is now experiencing its highest levels of infection.

According to the latest official report, more than 4,300 new cases were detected on Saturday, of which 82 percent were asymptomatic.

These numbers, while low by international standards, are a matter of concern to the Chinese authorities, and have resulted in strict restrictions imposed in several areas of the capital.

Similar measures have been adopted earlier in other parts of the country, such as Urumqi in the northwest, and the eastern megalopolis of Shanghai, parts of which were under strict lockdown for more than two months earlier this year.

In fact, it was in the cities of Urumqi and Shanghai that on Saturday night hundreds of people gathered to hold a vigil for those killed in the fire amid lockdown.

Footage showed groups of protesters singing the national anthem with its lyric “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves,” or “The Internationale,” while other groups shouted slogans calling for freedom, and against compulsory mass PCR tests and QR codes for contact tracing and getting access to different areas.

At one point during the vigil, a group of people chanted slogans against the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping, marking a rare public show of disapproval about the country’s government, its leader or its policies.

Several users on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – banned in the country -, expressed support for the vigil while the platform moderators and censors removed all comments and posts related to the issue.

Social media posts indicated that students in the eastern city of Nanjing gathered overnight in the university campus and held a vigil for those who died in Urumqi.

Meanwhile, at another university in the city of Xi’an (center) – which has also experienced harsh lockdown -, a group of students took to the streets of campus to show discontent about the covid-related shutdowns and restrictions.

China, virtually isolated from the rest of the world since the start of the pandemic in 2020, has of late suffered from numerous waves of outbreaks attributed to the highly contagious omicron variant.

This has put its “Zero Covid” policy against the coronavirus in jeopardy as the number of infections have reached record levels in the country.

According to the National Health Commission, the number of daily coronavirus cases in China has reached a record high of 39,791, including 36,082 asymptomatic infections that are not a part of the official count.

Official figures show that nearly 1.8 million people are currently under quarantine, which includes those infected – among them asymptomatic cases too – and those who have been in contact with them. EFE

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