The protests are a reaction to events in the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang province, where authorities were accused that the introduced anti-covid restrictions hindered the rescue operation after a skyscraper fire that killed 10 people. The Chinese authorities denied these reports, but the local authorities apologized for the situation and announced the reduction of restrictions. Many of the thousands of protesters in Shanghai held blank sheets of paper in their hands to express their dissatisfaction and show the censorship in place. There were single calls for President Xi Jinping to step down and criticizing the party, which is revolutionary in Chinese reality and has not appeared for decades. In Shanghai, the police maintained a strong presence in the Wulumuqi Road area, where a candlelight vigil was held the day before to commemorate the victims in Urumqi, which turned into protests. The police largely allowed the rallies to continue, but in Shanghai, officers arrested several people and cordoned off the streets. Hundreds of people gathered on the banks of the river in the capital on Sunday, singing the national anthem and listening to speeches. Earlier, according to the BBC, dozens of people organized a peaceful protest and sang the national anthem at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. There were also protests in Chengdu and Xi’an and in Wuhan. The government has not commented on Xi’s protests or criticism. Beijing authorities have announced that they will no longer set gates to block access to housing estates where infections have been detected. In China, it is very rare for people to publicly express their opposition to the leaders of the Communist Party, due to severe penalties, but also a kind of unwritten consensus of the elite and society, under which the Party guarantees development and economic growth, which legitimizes its power. In recent years, there have been only economic protests related to illegal banking practices, environmental pollution or expropriation during the implementation of investments. However, they did not have an anti-government edge and did not concern political change. The current protests, despite their wide scale and unprecedented for decades, also mainly concern the issue of restrictions on normal, everyday functioning and are not related, despite individual speeches, to political demands. Significant Chinese patriotic and national elements can be seen on them. However, the protests are a big challenge for the rulers due to the scale, but also the criticism of the “zero COVID” policy itself, which is Xi’s child. In the initial phase, it brought China successes in the fight against the pandemic, but now it is a kind of “fighting in windmills”. Nearly three years of mass testing, quarantines and lockdowns have affected millions of Chinese people and hit the Chinese economy hard. The “zero COVID” strategy is the last policy of its kind among the world’s major economies and is due, as the Chinese authorities argue, to the relatively low level of vaccination in China and efforts to protect the elderly. Xi Jinping recently announced that it will continue. However, the Chinese authorities seem to have underestimated the growing dissatisfaction with the anti-covid policy. Despite stringent measures, the number of cases in China this week broke a record since the start of the pandemic. BBC/KR The article Chinese protest against the “zero COVID” policy comes from the Polish Economy Forum.
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