by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
From Beijing to Shanghai, demonstrations erupted in major cities across China over the weekend, with protesters voicing their dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) draconian “zero COVID” policies. The protests mark a rare occurrence in a nation where basic civil rights are routinely suppressed by China’s authoritarian government.
The protests erupted after the deaths of 10 people in an apartment building fire in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the western region of China known as Xinjiang. According to The New York Times, it took authorities three hours to fully extinguish the flames, leading many on Chinese social media to criticize the CCP’s “zero Covid” approach and citizens throughout Xinjiang to take to the streets.
The backlash to the government’s handling of the incident spread throughout the country, leading to protests in some of China’s biggest population hubs. In the capital of Beijing, residents generated multiple, small-scale protests throughout the city on Saturday, with participants reportedly shouting phrases such as “End the lockdown.” Larger demonstrations against the CCP’s “zero Covid” strategy were also seen in Shanghai, where citizens with candles and flowers called for Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and the ruling CCP to “step down” from leadership and for a reversal of the city’s heavy-handed Covid restrictions.
Other Chinese cities that have reportedly experienced protests include Nanjing, Guangzhou, Xian, and Wuhan.
“These people have been languishing under Covid Zero policies … for almost three years now and they’re tired of it,” Steven Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute and a notable authority on Chinese affairs, told The Federalist. “They’re also suffering because the promise of the Chinese Communist Party, that China was going to be in the first rank of nations and that people in China were going to enjoy a standard of living equivalent to what we enjoy in the United States and the West, has turned out to be false.”