Rare violent protests in China against corona policy and President Xi: ‘We want freedom’

Police officers block a Shanghai street in a neighborhood where demonstrations against the Chinese government’s strict no-covid policy were held on Sunday. Protests against this policy have taken place in many places in China in recent days.Image Hector RETAMAL/AFP

People have taken to the streets in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan to demand the resignation of President Xi Jinping. In some cities, protesters clashed with police and barricades set up by the Chinese government were torn down.

Criticism of Chinese authorities is mounting after a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang province. Due to the strict lockdown, doors in the building would have been locked so that residents could not escape the flames.

The inhabitants of Urumqi have hardly been allowed to leave their homes for a hundred days due to the corona measures. Some victims would not have dared to leave their homes immediately for fear of breaking the rules. It was also difficult for rescuers to reach the building due to fencing that was put in place due to the shutdown.

Earlier, there were already strong protests in Urumqi itself in northwestern China. The protests have spread to other cities. On Saturday evening, about 300 people gathered in Shanghai to remember the victims of the fire with flowers, candles and signs reading “Urumqi, November 24th, those who died rest in peace.”

Tear gas

Videos shared on social media show a group of protesters shouting slogans against the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping. They shout ‘we want freedom’ and ‘we don’t want more tests’. They also demanded Xi’s resignation.

One of the protesters, Zhao, reports to the news agency AP that the police in Shanghai used pepper spray and that one of his friends was beaten by officers and then taken away. About a hundred police officers are said to have tried to prevent more protesters from gathering.