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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Intense protest in China calls Xi Jinping to step down as president

Angry protesters in China are calling on Xi Jinping to step down as president, in a rare display of dissent that has spread to multiple cities amid frustration over the government’s zero-Covid policy.

Chanting ‘Xi Jinping, step down’ China protests spread to more cities, demanding freedom from suppressive restrictions across the country.

About 300 protesters gathered on Middle Urumqi Road in Shanghai on Saturday to pay tribute to the victims of a large apartment building fire that killed 10 people in Urumqi on Thursday evening. Some social media accounts suggested that residents were unable to leave their homes during the fire due to Covid-19 control measures.

Demonstrators in Shanghai carried flowers and candles and held signs reading “Urumqi, November 24th, those who died rest in peace” and also sang the national anthem. But others voiced rare criticism of the government, shouting: “Xi Jinping, step down, Communist Party, step down”, “unlock Xinjiang, unlock China”, “[we don’t want] PCR [tests], [we want] freedom” and “freedom press,” according to one protester named Zhao.


Police eventually used pepper spray and brute force to disperse the protest. Zhao told the Associated Press that the officers beat one of his friends and two others were pepper-sprayed. The police official also stamped his feet as he tried to prevent them from detaining his friend.

Zhao said he lost his shoe in the process and left the protest site barefoot.

Another photo from the scene of the protest showed dozens of people carrying blank papers to protest the continued restrictions.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets of Beijing and other cities in public defiance, with videos on social media showing residents tearing down quarantine barriers while others cheered and clapped.


China is the only major economy that continues to fight the pandemic with lockdowns, regular testing and quarantine measures for its citizens, nearly three years after the Covid-19 virus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Despite growing public discontent with the measures, many local authorities are only strengthening their Covid restrictions in the face of rising case numbers. On Sunday, the country recorded a total of 39,506 new covid infections – a record number for the fourth day in a row.

For many, however, concern over the rising number of cases is secondary to anger over the prolonged lockdown that just a handful of cases reported in any one district can spark.

Political scientist Ian Bremmar said the spiraling protests posed the biggest threat yet to Mr Xi’s rule in China.


There was little evidence of protests on Chinese social media, which is censored by the Communist Party, but some videos were shared around the world via Twitter and Facebook.

Peaceful protests were also held in Urumqi on Friday evening to condemn the zero-count Covid restrictions that are preventing people from resuming their daily lives.

Videos show locals holding a Chinese flag and shouting “open up, open up” while others shout and push against lines of men in white body suits, usually worn by local government workers and pandemic prevention volunteers.

Officials denied claims that barricades near the building involved in the fire in Urumqi prevented firefighters from effectively fighting the blaze, saying residents were allowed to leave their homes at the time of the fire.


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