Locked, But Not Down
The Xi Jinping Administration in Beijing recently adopted a Zero COVID Policy in the fight against the Coronavirus. The move has triggered anti-Government protests in the Asian country, as people have taken to the streets, opposing their Government’s move. Such spontaneous mass movements against the Government are rare in China.
Beijing imposed a strict lockdown in various parts of the country in mid-November 2022 due to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections. The concerned authorities also made lengthy quarantine and strict COVID-19 tests mandatory for infected people. Meanwhile, common people are fed up with being confined to their homes for long. Thousands of people took to the streets of Beijing and Shanghai on November 27 (2022) to stage protests against the Government policy. Reports suggest that the protesters also demanded the resignation of President Xi!
Meanwhile, at least 10 people were killed and nine others injured in a fire at a high-rise residential building in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on November 22. The blaze was put out in about three hours, as fire trucks were allegedly blocked from entering the Urumqi compound owing to restrictions under the Zero COVID Policy of the Government. However, the Xi Administration denied the report. On November 27, at least 400 people reportedly gathered at a riverside area in Beijing to stage protests, prompting the Government to deploy heavy Police and paramilitary forces at the spot.
Protesters clashed with the Police in Shanghai, too. Protesters were heard chanting “Xi Jinping, tender resignation” in the streets of Shanghai. The local media reported that protesters started gathering in Shanghai streets late November 26 night. They were evacuated on November 27 morning. Later in the afternoon, thousands of people took to the streets again. As expected, their silent protests created troubles for the Government of China. Later, social media were flooded with images and videos of protests.
As protests over China’s draconian Zero COVID Policy have flared up in several cities, authorities have moved to censor online contents on the rare demonstrations. State censors appeared to have scrubbed the Chinese social media of any news about the rallies, with the search terms “Liangma River” and “Urumqi Road” (sites of protests in Beijing and Shanghai), scrubbed of any references to the rallies on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. Beijing has further blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking the deadly fire in Urumqi to strict COVID-19 measures in the country, with the Foreign Ministry saying that the Government’s “fight against COVID-19 will be successful“.
The Chinese Police have also triggered a fresh tension by detaining, handcuffing and beating up a BBC journalist, who was covering protests in Shanghai on November 27. The Foreign Ministry, following the uproar over the arrest of the journalist, stressed that the media person had not identified himself as a reporter. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation in China is worrisome, as 39,506 people were newly infected with the Coronavirus on November 27. On November 28, Beijing reported 40,052 domestic COVID-19 cases, a record high but tiny compared to caseloads in the West at the height of the pandemic.
Political analysts are of the opinion that such spontaneous and massive anti-Government protests by common people have sent a strong message to the Xi Jinping Administration. President Xi recently touched Mao Zedong‘s record of three consecutive terms as Head of Government, as well as the Communist Party of China (CPC). Within a few days, such an outpouring of public anger was unexpected for the CPC and the Government.
The Global Community is monitoring the steps taken by the Xi Administration to tackle the crisis. According to analysts, the current turmoil in China will certainly have a global impact.
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