Protests over Covid restrictions have spread in China

The protests against the restrictions imposed by China in its “zero covid” strategy extended this Saturday and Sunday (11.27.2022) to major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Nanjing, after the death of a dozen people in a fire building apparently confined to construction.

Shanghai police used pepper spray on about 300 protesters, according to a witness. They gathered on Saturday night to mourn the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire that broke out last week in Urumqi, in the country’s northwest Xinjiang region.

Videos posted on social media claiming to have been filmed in Nanjing, Guangzhou and at least five other cities showed protesters grappling with police in white protective suits or dismantling barricades used to cordon off neighborhoods.

While the official press does not report the incidents, some recordings showed how dozens of people yesterday tore down the fences with which the authorities close the confined residential complexes in the vast Tiantongyuan residential complex, north of Beijing, sometimes described by the media Chinese as the largest in Asia, with about 700,000 residents.

High levels of infections in Beijing

The Chinese capital, particularly protected against outbreaks since 2020, is now experiencing its highest levels of infections: according to the latest official report, more than 4,300 new cases were detected this Saturday, of which 82% are asymptomatic according to the standards of the health authorities.

These figures, low by international standards but intolerable for the Chinese authorities, have led to restrictions and confinements that affect a large part of the capital’s population, as has already happened this year in other areas of the country such as Urumqi or the eastern megalopolis of Shanghai, which this year it experienced a harsh lockdown that lasted more than two months in some areas.

Precisely in that city, and precisely in Urumqi street, hundreds of people gathered yesterday evening to celebrate a vigil in memory of those who died in the fire which passed in a mostly peaceful manner, according to online testimonies, including some say there have been arrests.

Recordings show groups of protesters chanting “Those who refuse to be slaves, stand up” – a verse from China’s national anthem – or “The International”, shouting “we want freedom”, “we don’t want to take PCR tests “. or “who fuck QR codes”, referring to the obligation to scan health QR codes with a mobile application at the entrance to any establishment or even in parks so that, when the authorities detect an infection, they can determine who has had it always in contact with that person.

Slogan against the communist regime

At one point in the night, a group of people even chanted “Down with the Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping,” a rare public display of disapproval of the country’s leader’s policies.

According to the specialized portal What’s On Weibo, numerous commentators of the Weibo social network – the local equivalent of Twitter, censored in the country – expressed support for the vigil but, above all, asked the participants to protect themselves, before the censors of the platform banned to comment on the etiquette used to talk about the topic.

The same portal indicates that, at a university in the eastern city of Nanjing, many students gathered on campus last night and lit the flashlights of their cell phones as a vigil for those killed in Urumqi.

Meanwhile in another university, in this case in Xi’an (downtown), a city also victim of harsh lockdowns, a group of students took to the streets of the campus to express their discontent with the anti-covid lockdowns, which they also this year was a major drag on the national economy.

According to data from the National Health Commission, China broke the covid infection record for the fourth consecutive day by detecting nearly 40,000 new infections this Saturday, although more than 90% of them are considered asymptomatic and do not add to the official case tolls . confirmed.

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