Over the weekend, rare protests broke out across China over their continuing strict COVID-19 lockdown policies.
These protests erupted after first responders in north-western China city of Urumqi were blocked from reaching an apartment fire due to COVID-19 blockades and locks. Ten people perished in the fire.
Censors in China quickly removed online video footage of the tragic event.
Protesters took to the streets in outrage, demanding the Communist Party lift their harsh COVID restrictions. Protesters boke blockades and shouted “down with the Communist Party.” They also called for Xi Jinping to resign.
Breaking News：Chinese Protestors in Shanghai chanting “Xi Jinping, step down！Communist Party, step down！”
This is huge!
— Inty (@__Inty__) November 26, 2022
Breaking news: Chinese Protesters in Shanghai demand the Communist Party immediately release all those arrested last night who asked Xi Jinping and the CCP to step down.pic.twitter.com/56QPl2MUEN
— Inty (@__Inty__) November 27, 2022
Open dissent is very uncommon in China, as the Communist Party’s hold on the country has notoriously punished any voices that challenge the party’s stance on virtually any issue.
Their state-controlled media quickly released propaganda promoting Xi’s lockdown measures. According to The People’s Daily, “Timely detection and control of infected persons in the society, accurate identification and control of close contacts, and timely and accurate delineation and announcement of risk areas are the keys to seize the opportunity for epidemic prevention and control.”
Protests of this scale are reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, where demonstrators (largely comprised of students) demanded their own freedom from Communist rule.
Speaking with the AFP, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation defense policy think tank, “In terms of both the scale and intensity, this is the single largest protest by young people in China since the student movement in 1989.” Lam also said, “In 1989, students were very careful not to attack the party leadership by name. This time they have been very specific change in leadership.”