11/28/2022, 17.08
CHINA
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Anti-lockdown protesters call on Xi and the Communist Party to quit

by John Ai

Protests against the zero-COVID policy have spread across the country, including university campuses, becoming the most impressive since 1989. Despite the impact on the economy and household income, Chinese authorities have ignored people’s demands. Riot police go into action. Many protests are inspired by a one-man protest before the 20th party congress in Beijing.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Massive protests against the government’s strict anti-COVID-19 policy are breaking out across China.

Shanghai today saw a second day of demonstrations. People gathered again demanding the police release those arrested overnight. The police responded with new arrests.

Online videos show uniformed and plainclothes officers grabbing protesters, including women, and throwing them into vans that carry people away screaming and weeping.

The wave of anger follows recent demonstrations in Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, where protesters demanded an end to health restrictions.

City residents blame the authorities for the death on Friday of 10 people after a fire broke out in their building; as a result of draconian anti-Covid measures, they were unable to escape in time.

Protests are rare in Xinjiang, where independent observers and UN experts say the authorities have set up concentration camps for Uyghurs and members of other Turkic-speaking minorities in the name of fighting terrorism.

So far, the Chinese government has not yet responded to the demonstrations.

After the deadly fire in Urumqi, the arrogant attitude of local leaders sparked the anger of people in other parts of the country.

Xinjiang authorities blamed the people who lost their lives in the fire for poor safety awareness and lack of knowledge, not saying that emergency exits in residential buildings are locked.

Soon after, Sunday evening, hundreds of people in Shanghai held a vigil in the central area of the city to remember the victims of the Urumqi tragedy.

People brought flowers and lit candles to commemorate the victims, eventually, turning the event into a protest with calls for an end to lockdowns and demands with political overtones.

People repeatedly chanted slogans such as "Communist Party, step down” and “Xi Jinping, step down." Some shouted, “We do not want testing. We want freedom”, similar to the demands made by a lone protester in Beijing before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China last month.

Images of the protests in Shanghai continue to circulate on social media. Not since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 have Chinese openly called for the resignation of the communist leaders.

For their part, the authorities have stepped up internet censorship, blocking the accounts of users who share pictures and videos on social media.

Inspired by the protest in Shanghai, people in Chengdu (Sichuan) also took to the streets, chanting "no life in office”, “China does not need an emperor", "freedom of speech", and “freedom of the press".

Protesters who called for "freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press" were rushed by the police, who took into custody some people.

In Wuhan (Hubei), where COVID-19 first appeared, protesters tore down fences and metal barriers set up to enforce the quarantine, before they were attacked by riot police.

In Guangzhou (Guangdong) crowds demanded the release of people arrested in Shanghai. Online videos show protesters being arrested. A massive protest also took place overnight in Beijing.

University students began action on campuses demanding the authorities end the lockdown; this resulted in clashes with university security.

At Tsinghua University, , one of the country’s foremost institutions of higher learning, students chanted “democracy and rule of law” and “freedom of expression”.

According to posts on social media, students from more than 50 universities have joined the protest movement.

Students also launched a "blank paper revolution”, whereby each protester stands still with a piece of paper. Online posts say police and university security are closely monitoring this form of protest.

Massive protests also took place at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou (Henan), where the latest iPhone models are made.

Since late October, large numbers of workers have quit their job due to the outbreak of the virus inside the plant. Employees were ordered to stay in dormitories, but a large number broke out and returned to their hometowns on foot to avoid being arrested on public transport.

Struggling with a lack of workers, Foxconn turned to the government for help, which made the situation worse. The authorities mobilised veterans to work on the assembly line.

When the recruits arrived at the factory, they realised that the remuneration was lower than promised. Unsatisfied with the pay and fearing infections, they quit and demanded compensation, which led to massive clashes last week with riot police and plant security.

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