Chinese Protesters Demand Xi Ouster Over COVID Policy
Barely a month after granting himself new powers as China’s potential leader for life, Xi Jinping is facing a wave of public anger of the kind not seen for decades, sparked by his draconian “zero COVID” program that will soon enter its fourth year, Dake Kang reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in more than eight populous cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, chanting slogans and confronting police.
Joe McDonald of AP also reported that Chinese authorities eased anti-virus rules in scattered areas but affirmed China’s severe “zero- COVID” strategy Monday after crowds demanded President Xi Jinping resign during protests against controls that confine millions of people to their homes.
Protesters also condemned Xi and Xinjiang authorities for a delayed response to a fire in an apartment block with COVID in Urumqi, Xinjiang that killed 10 people on Nov. 24. Protesters in Urumqi and other Xinjiang cities included not only Muslims but members of the middle class of the Han majority.
Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in more than eight populous cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, chanting slogans and confronting police.
No less than eight university campuses also experienced protests, while people furious at COVID rules milled about in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement that was crushed with deadly force by the army.
But some also shouted for the downfall of Xi and of the Communist Party that has ruled China with an iron fist for 73 years, criticism that is deemed seditious and punishable by years in prison. Protesters expressed frustration over a system that is neither performing as promised or responding to their concerns.
Police in Shanghai also beat, kicked, and handcuffed a BBC journalist who was filming the protests. Authorities said they arrested him for his own good “in case he caught Covid from the crowd," the BBC said in a statement. “We do not consider this a credible explanation," it said.
The possibility of further protests is unclear, and government censors have been scrubbing the internet of videos and messages supporting the demonstrations. Xi's unelected government doesn't seem to be overly concerned with the hardships brought by the COVID policy.
This spring, millions of Shanghai residents were placed under a strict lockdown that resulted in food shortages, restricted access to medical care, and harsh economic pain.
Nevertheless, in October, the city's most powerful official, a longtime Xi loyalist, was appointed to the Communist Party's No. 2 position, Kanis Leung and Alice Fung also reported for AP.