Chinese Anti-COVID Lockdown Protests Have Morphed Into Anti-Regime Demonstrations


Protests in China have been frequent over the years, caused by issues as diverse as air pollution, mistreatment by police, and illegal land grabs as the Chinese Communists flagrantly disregard their own laws.


But long-time China-watchers at the BBC are shocked about the protests that have erupted in the last 48 hours. The latest demonstrations began as protests against the endless and maddening COVID-19 lockdowns.

But on Friday night, a fire in an apartment complex that killed ten people was the focus of protests against the Chinese government. The anti-COVID lockdown was being blamed for the slow response to the fire.


It is extremely dangerous here to publicly criticise the Communist Party’s general secretary. You risk being put in prison.

And yet there they were on the Shanghai street (Wulumuqi Lu) which carries the name of the Xinjiang city where a fire had killed 10 residents, and zero-Covid restrictions were blamed for hampering the rescue effort.

One protester calls out: “Xi Jinping!”

And hundreds reply: “Step down!”

Again and again: “Xi Jinping! Step down! Xi Jinping! Step down!”

The chant also went out: “Communist Party! Step down! Communist Party! Step down!”

For a political organisation with no greater priority than remaining in power, this is as big a challenge as they come.

This is why the Communists can’t allow these protests — referred to by some as the biggest protests since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Any challenge at all to its legitimacy must be met with the most brutal and bloody crackdown.

On dozens of university campuses, students held gatherings or put up posters to grieve the dead from the Xinjiang fire and speak out against zero-Covid. In several cities, residents in locked-down neighborhoods tore down barriers and took to the streets, following mass anti-lockdown protests that swept Urumqi on Friday night.

Such widespread scenes of anger and defiance – some of which stretched well into Sunday – are exceptionally rare in China, where the ruling Communist Party ruthlessly cracks down on all expressions of dissent. But three years into the pandemic, many people have been pushed to the brink by the government’s incessant use of lockdowns, Covid tests and quarantines.

The ratcheting-up of restrictions in recent months, coupled with a series of heartbreaking deaths blamed on an over-zealous policing of the controls, has brought matters to a head.

Lambs to the slaughter. We can admire their courage, but there is no chance that Xi will change his policies given how much the CCP has invested in them. The parameters of what triggers a lockdown must change — probably framed as a response to the “success” of Xi’s policies. That’s the only way that the Chinese Communists will alter their lockdown policy.

And the only relief in sight for the Chinese people.



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