beijing, November 27
China’s rare public protests opposing stringent Covid lockdowns turned political on Sunday with protesters raising slogans against President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party as the demonstrations spread to university campuses in Beijing and Nanjing.
Shanghai, where thousands of protesters converged at the Wulumuqi Road, named after Xinjiang provincial capital Urumqi, on Saturday night, witnessed fresh demonstrations on Sunday despite the police presence.
The protests, which began in the morning, intensified with the participation of hundreds of people by mid-afternoon, Financial Times correspondent, who was present at the protest site, told the BBC.
According to videos posted on social media in Shanghai, people were heard shouting slogans such as “Xi Jinping step down” and “Communist party step down”. Hale said the protests were extremely significant as the politics of Covid policies reflected wider political frustration, including the slowing down of the economy.
Elsewhere, protesters held blank white banners while others lit candles and laid flowers for the victims in Urumqi, where 10 persons were killed in a fire at a building reportedly under Covid lockdown on Thursday.
Observers say the latest protests appeared to be in continuation of the “banner protest” in Beijing last month ahead of the CPC’s once-in-a-five-year Congress which elected 69-year-old Xi for an unprecedented 3rd five-year term.
Political protests opposing the CPC and its leadership are very rare in China. As such criticism of the party and leadership could result in harsh penalties. Videos posted showed police arresting several protesters in Shanghai. Also, students’ protests broke out in the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing as well as Communication University in Nanjing.
A protester in Shanghai told the BBC he felt “shocked and a bit excited” to see people out on the streets, calling it the first time he’d seen such large-scale dissent in China. He said lockdowns made him feel “sad, angry and hopeless” and had left him unable to see his mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment.
Shanghai, a city of over 25 million, endured weeks of Covid lockdowns in April sparking protests.
Beijing has seen a sharp escalation of Covid cases, which on Sunday climbed to over 4,700, amid the protests. At a meeting, Beijing Communist Party secretary Yin Li urged lower-level officials to impose more resolute and decisive measures to contain the spread of the virus.
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