Shanghai protesters, police jostle as anger over China’s COVID curbs mounts

  • Unprecedented civil unrest has been unleashed under President Xi
  • Growing frustration over Xi’s zero-COVID policy
  • A house fire in Urumqi last Thursday killed 10 people
  • Vigils turned into protests in cities including Beijing, Shanghai
  • Students of a prestigious Beijing university protested

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters in Shanghai shouted and clashed with police on Sunday evening as protests against China’s tough anti-COVID restrictions entered a third day. – following deadly house fires in the western part of the country.

The scale of civil unrest, which has spread to other cities including Beijing, is unprecedented in China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago and comes despite widespread anger over the signature policy. zero-covid.

China has lived for almost three years with some of the strongest COVID restrictions in the world.

The fire at a tower block in the city of Urumqi sparked protests after a video of the incident posted on social media led to accusations that lockdown was responsible for the death toll.

Urumqi officials held an emergency press conference early Saturday morning to deny the COVID-19 measures have prevented evacuations and rescues. Many of the four million residents of Urumqi have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, prevented from leaving their homes for 100 days.

On Sunday in Shanghai, the police kept a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, also known as Urumqi, and where candlelight vigils had turned into protests the previous day.

By evening, hundreds of people had gathered there.

Some taunted the police who tried to disperse them. People held up blank sheets of paper as a sign of protest.

A Reuters witness saw at least seven people being taken away by police.

“We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting tested. It was the accident in Xinjiang that drove people away,” said a 26-year-old protester who asked to it was recognized that he spoke for the sake of understanding. of words.

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“The people here are not violent, but the police are arresting them for no reason, they tried to arrest me but the people around me grabbed my hands very hard and pulled me back so I could run away .”

Another protester, Shaun Xiao, said: “I came here because I love my country, but I don’t love my government… I want to be able to leave freely, but i can’t. Our COVID-19. Prediction is a game, not science or fact.”

On Saturday, a vigil in Shanghai for the victims of the house fire turned into a protest against the prevention of COVID, with the crowd calling for the lifting of the lockdown. A large group sings

“Under the Communist Party of China, with Xi Jinping”, according to witnesses in a video posted on social media, in a rare public protest against the country’s leaders.

URUMQI, BEIJING, WUHAN

On Sunday at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, dozens of people staged a peaceful protest against the COVID restrictions while singing the national anthem, according to images and videos posted on social media.

A student who witnessed the Tsinghua protest told Reuters he was surprised by the protest at one of China’s most prestigious universities, and a teacher of Xi.

“The people there were very interested, it was awesome to see,” said the student, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

In central Wuhan, where the outbreak began three years ago, hundreds of residents took to the streets on Sunday, knocking down metal barriers, tearing down COVID-testing tents and demanding an end to the lockdown, such as videos and social media that cannot. it will be checked independently.

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Thursday’s fire that killed 10 people in a building in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, saw crowds take to the streets on Friday evening, chanting “Stop the lockdown!” and throwing their hands in the air, according to an unconfirmed video on social media.

ZERO – COVID

China has stuck to Xi’s zero-COVID policy even as the world has raised many barriers. Although low by global standards, China’s cases have hit a record high for the day, with nearly 40,000 new infections on Saturday.

China defends the policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent the spread of the health system. Officials have vowed to push ahead with it despite growing public opposition and rising economic costs.

China’s economy shrank sharply in October as industrial output grew more slowly than expected and retail sales fell for the first time in five months, indicating that demand is faltering in home and abroad.

Adding to the weak data in recent days, China reported on Sunday that manufacturing companies saw their overall profits fall further in January-October, while 22 in the domestic sector China’s 41 main jobs show a decline.

The world’s second-largest economy faces major headwinds ahead including the risk of a global recession and recession.

Complaints are rare

Public protests are rare in China, where opportunities for protest have been removed under Xi, forcing citizens to speak out on social media, while playing catch-up with investigators. and the mouse.

Frustration is growing less than a month after Xi won a third term at the head of China’s Communist Party.

“This will put a lot of pressure on the team to respond. There is a good chance that one response will be opposition, they will arrest and shoot some of the protesters,” said Dan Mattingly, assistant professor of science Politics at Yale University said.

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Still, he said, the unrest was a far cry from that seen in 1989, when protests ended in bloodshed in Tiananmen Square. He added that as long as Xi has the Chinese elite and the military on his side, he will not face any meaningful threats to keep him in power.

At the end of this week, Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Ma Xingrui called for the region to improve security and stop “rejecting the unjustified violence of the COVID-19 prevention measures”.

Xinjiang officials have said that public transport services will gradually resume on Monday in Urumqi.

Other cities that have seen public protests include Lanzhou in the northwest, where residents on Saturday tore down tents of COVID-19 workers and tore down labs, posters and social media showed. Protesters said they were placed under lockdown even though no one tested positive.

Candlelight vigils for the victims of Urumqi were also held at universities in Nanjing and Beijing.

Since Shanghai’s 25 million residents were placed under a two-month lockdown earlier this year, Chinese authorities have been keen to focus on their prevention of COVID-19, an effort challenged by a surge in infections and -fly as the country faces its first winter. The Omicron variety is highly portable.

(This article has been corrected to say that the Urumqi fire is in a residential building, not an industrial building, in paragraphs 3 and 13)

Reports by Martin Quin Pollard, Yew Lun Tian, ​​Eduardo Baptista and Liz Lee in Beijing and Brenda Goh, Josh Horwitz, David Stanway, Casey Hall and Engen Tham in Shanghai and the Shanghai Newsroom; Written by Tony Munroe; Editing by William Mallard, Kim Coghill, Edwina Gibbs and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our principles: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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