Massive and historic demonstrations broke out in China over the weekend, as tens of thousands of Chinese dissidents protested the country’s draconian “zero-COVID” lockdown policies. The catalyst for the protests was a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province on November 24. The building had been in partial lockdown for nearly two months, and at least ten of the residents perished because they were unable to escape their sealed apartments.
Families in a hi-rise in China were locked into their apartments as their building caught fire. Urumqi, in Xinjiang Province
They burned alive as they couldn't escape and no one could get to them in time
This is directly on the CCP and Xi's Zero-Covid lockdown strategy pic.twitter.com/AWQ4oJA7Qg
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) November 28, 2022
— 老司机 (@h5LPyKL7TP6jjop) November 25, 2022
Demonstrations erupted in at least seven cities—including Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou—with violence breaking out between local cops and furious protesters.
The largest demonstration appeared in Shanghai – home to 26million residents – with many boldly demanding President Xi Jinping resign.
Officers used pepper spray against about 300 protesters, according to a witness, but western journalists reported the numbers to be in the thousands.
Saturday evening and into Sunday, Chinese dissidents gathered in the city center of Shanghai to light candles for the victims of the deadly fire. By midnight, the crowd had swelled to over a thousand people, who chanted: “Xi Jinping, step down,” and “Communist Party, step down.”
“Traitor #XiJinping! #XiJinping, step down! Dictatorial Government, step down! F*ck…”
Crowds shouting while they gathered at #Urumqi Road in #Shanghai city today to protest against the #CCP’s #ZeroCovid #lockdown. pic.twitter.com/lDvwCdlzyS
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) November 27, 2022
— Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) November 26, 2022
The protesters also reportedly chanted: “We don’t want dictatorship, we want democracy,” and “step down, CCP.”
Hundreds gathered on a Shanghai street sharing a name with Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Even more extraordinary than the turnout is what they’re apparently chanting in some of these: “We don’t want dictatorship, we want democracy,” and “step down, CCP.” pic.twitter.com/j1yX1WK2be
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) November 26, 2022
By Sunday the demonstrations had reportedly spread to 20 provinces throughout China.
Protests in China are not rare, but multiple protests over the same issue all across the country, are rare, Bloomberg reporter Tom MacKenzie noted on Twitter.
The protest below, reportedly in central Beijing’s liangmaqiao, “is astounding,” MacKenzie tweeted.
Protests in China are not rare. What *is* rare, are multiple protests over the same issue, at the same time, across the country. The protest below, apparently in central Beijing’s liangmaqiao, is astounding #China #protests pic.twitter.com/UHJCqqF1YG
— Tom Mackenzie (@TomMackenzieTV) November 27, 2022
It’s also reportedly unprecedented for dissidents to voice complaints aimed directly at Xi and his central leadership committee. “Even during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, protesters demanded democratic reform, not regime change,” Fox News noted.
The movement was reportedly dubbed the “White Paper Revolution” after students of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and dissidents throughout China clutched blank sheets of white paper to symbolize and denounce the regime’s censorious policies.
‘We want freedom!’ pic.twitter.com/yoTeYaFJAx
— Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) November 26, 2022
The demonstrations turned violent in several cities as protesters and police clashed. Videos posted online showed police attacking and carrying away some protesters, and reporters.
Just seen police dragging random people away from the crossroads where protests first started in Shanghai. All happening now pic.twitter.com/wADg3j80wX
— Leo Lord-Jones (@leolordjones) November 28, 2022
Chinese police arrested and reportedly assaulted BBC journalist Edward Lawrence, who had been on the ground reporting on the protests. According to the BBC, Lawrence “was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest he was beaten and kicked by police.”
Witnessed a BBC journalist got sieged and dragged to the ground by several cops in Shanghai earlier tonight on the Urumqi Rd. His friend said he was targeted becuz he was filming the protest. (feel free to @ his handle if you know who this journalist is ) @BBCNews @BBCNewsAsia pic.twitter.com/tPgoPET3hg
— Shanghaishanghai (@Shanghaishang10) November 27, 2022
A spokesperson for UK prime minister Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The arrest of this journalist who was simply going about their work is shocking and unacceptable. Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of intimidation.”
On Monday, Lawrence reported that police were forcing people to delete cell phone photos taken during the protests.
— Edward Lawrence (@EP_Lawrence) November 28, 2022
Apple Inc. meanwhile appears to be working with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) by limiting its AirDrop feature in some of its products purchased in China. AirDrop has reportedly been used by protesters in China previously to share content without being censored by the regime.
Apple has released a software update limiting the use of AirDrop in China in light of recent protests.
AirDrop was being used by protesters to transmit info directly phone to phone, bypassing the Great Firewall of China. pic.twitter.com/2UNtOeuTBZ
— Whole Mars Catalog (@WholeMarsBlog) November 28, 2022
The unrest had reportedly settled down on Monday, but as China launches another crippling lockdown across the country, more protests are expected.
According to the Daily Mail, the Communist nation recently reported a resurgence of 39,791 new cases spread across the country, “the biggest one-day increase on record, including a record 4,307 in Beijing alone.”
Amid the explosion of new cases, the Chinese government is constructing new detention camps for the infected.
According to Nexta, an Eastern European news outlet, a new “quarantine center” in Guangzhou will be able to accommodate 80,000 people.
For the second day in a row, China has recorded an explosive increase in coronavirus infections.
In the city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, which has the largest number of cases, the construction of a quarantine center for 80,000 people has begun. pic.twitter.com/LnOZdVdVjO
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) November 25, 2022
World Economic Forum founder and Chair Klaus Schwab recently praised China’s “tremendous” achievements at modernizing its economy, and called the Communist nation a “role model” for other countries.
Schwab made the comments during an interview with Chinese state media outlet CGTN on the sidelines of the APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this month.
“I think it’s a role model for many countries,” Schwab said, adding, “I think we should be very careful in imposing systems. But the Chinese model is certainly a very attractive model for quite a number of countries.”
Rather than praising the Chinese protesters’ bravery, the White House on Monday issued a lukewarm statement supporting “the right to protest.”
“We’ve long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, here in the United States and around the world. This includes in the PRC,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.
We’ve said that zero COVID is not a policy we [are] pursuing here in the United States. And as we’ve said, we think it’s going to be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy,” the spokesperson added.
The White House said that the United States (with 1.9 million COVID deaths compared to China’s alleged 5,232) would continue to focus on “what works.”
“For us, we are focused on what works and that means using the public health tools like: continuing to enhance vaccination rates, including boosters and making testing and treatment easily accessible.”