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Chinese lockdown protests could spell trouble for Xi Jinping


Massive demonstrations against China’s COVID-19 lockdown policies could threaten Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s rule — just weeks after granting himself on unprecedented third term at the nation’s helm.

China has been rocked by days of protest following a deadly fire Thursday in the far western Xinjiang region, in which rescue efforts were reportedly hampered by the country’s Covid lockdown restrictions.

The fire in the city of Urumqi killed 10. The city had been under COVID lockdown for 100 days.

By Sunday, the protests had reached major cities like Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as the capital, Beijing.

“Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!” shouted protesters in Shanghai — a virtually unheard-of chant in a nation where such calls could be legally considered sedition.

The protests have also been notable for the participation of China’s educated urban middle class from the ethnic Han majority.

Many Chinese citizens are being doubtful of President Xi Jinping’s reign.
Jack Taylor/Pool Photo via AP, File

After a day of clashes with protestors in Shanghai, authorities blocked some the city’s main avenues Monday with blue metal barriers, in order to prevent assemblies. Shops in the areas where protests were anticipated were told to stay closed.

While fewer Chinese took to the streets on Monday, protests broke out in Hong Kong.

Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong chanted “oppose dictatorship” and “Freedom! Freedom!”

China’s so-called zero-COVID policy has sought to stop the spread of the highly transmissible pandemic through strict controls on citizens’ movements to isolate each infected person.

The policy has kept case numbers — as well as deaths — down. China has reported a mere 5,232 deaths from COVID-19, against the US count of 1.09 million.

But tolerance for the strict controls has waned, with people in some regions confined to their homes for up to four months.

Beijing had indicated a willingness to relax some of the zero-COVID policies — though cases are once again on the rise.

The lockdown protests are the largest China has seen since 1989, when the Chinese Communist Party violently quashed pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

So far, the violence in China has been largely limited to police pepper spraying the crowds.

China has reported a mere 5,232 deaths from the coronavirus.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

But videos from Sunday’s protests in Shanghai showed the violent arrest of a BBC reporter, who the British broadcaster said was kicked and beaten by police before being detained for “several hours.”

The reporter, Ed Lawrence, later said that a Swiss journalist was briefly detained and “at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me.” 

Lawrence later said Chinese cops were confiscating phones and cameras, allegedly making people delete images of the protests. 

Chinese officials claimed Lawrence was arrested “for his own good in case he caught COVID from the crowd,” the BBC said, adding: “We do not consider this a credible explanation.”

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