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Protests against Covid controls erupt across China

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Protesters against Covid restrictions hold blank sheets of paper during a demonstration in Beijing in the early hours of Monday November 28.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — Rare protests erupted across China over the weekend as groups of people expressed frustration with the zero-Covid policy.

The unrest came as infections rose, prompting more local Covid checks, while a change in central government policy earlier this month raised hopes of a gradual easing. Almost three years of controls have caused the economy to slow down. Youth unemployment is around 20%.

The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, published a front-page op-ed on Monday on the need to make Covid controls more targeted and effective, while scrapping those that should be scrapped.

In Beijing, many apartment communities have managed to convince local management that they have no legal basis for a lockdown. It came after more and more precincts in the capital abruptly banned residents from leaving on Friday.

On Sunday, city officials said temporary travel controls should not last longer than 24 hours.

Over the past three days, students have staged protests at numerous universities, while people have taken to the streets in parts of Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Lanzhou, among other cities, according to widely shared videos on social networks. social networks. Not all videos could be independently verified.

Protests began in Urumqi, Xinjiang, on Friday after a building fire killed 10 people the day before – in an area that had been closed for months. The social media narrative centered on how Covid checks were preventing residents and emergency workers from saving lives.

Although it’s unclear exactly what caused the deaths, local authorities later said the Covid risk had subsided and started to ease controls.

On Saturday in Shanghai, a vigil for the dead in Urumqi turned into a protest against Covid and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Some unverified videos also showed calls for President Xi Jinping to step down.

Videos on social media showed police arresting protesters.

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Many protesters held up blank white sheets of paper. Some sang the national anthem and “The International”, a socialist song associated with the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Notably, social media also showed protesters at the prestigious Tsinghua University on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear if the protests had reached a significant scale in a country of 1.4 billion people, or if a broad demographic took part.

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