In China, the 'Unthinkable': Protesters Call Out Xi

Anger over COVID lockdowns is boiling over
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2022 9:40 AM CST
In China, the 'Unthinkable': Protesters Call Out Xi
Chinese police officers block off access to a site where protesters had gathered in Shanghai on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.   (AP Photo)

Anger over China's draconian COVID lockdown policies has led to what the BBC describes as heretofore "unthinkable" scenes across the country: Protesters openly calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping. Demonstrators in Shanghai in particular turned out en masse, but protests also were reported at universities in Beijing and Nanjing. The New York Times describes what's happening "as the most defiant eruption of public anger against the ruling Communist Party in years." Much of the latest anger stems from a fire that claimed 10 lives in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region.

Demonstrators say COVID lockdowns hampered firefighters' response to the blaze, though the government denies that. China remains the only major country trying to implement a "zero COVID policy," and people's anger about the restrictions is boiling over. The AP reports that protesters in Shanghai where chanting, “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!” The latter is a reference to the nation's Communist Party. The BBC's Tessa Wong writes that the Urumqi fire has become a "tipping point" for the public anger.

While COVID protests had become more common of late, "this weekend's demonstrations are unusual in this new normal, both in their numbers and directness of their criticism of the government" and Xi, writes Wong. That kind of criticism would have been "unthinkable not so long ago." The AP quotes an anonymous protester in Shanghai: “Everyone thinks that Chinese people are afraid to come out and protest, that they don’t have any courage,” he said. “Actually in my heart, I also thought this way. But then when I went there, I found that the environment was such that everyone was very brave.” (More China stories.)

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