Beijing CNN — Protests erupted across China on Saturday, including at universities and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted “Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented show of defiance against the country’s stringent and increasingly costly zero-Covid policy.
A deadly fire at an apartment block in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang, which killed 10 people and injured nine on Thursday has acted as a catalyst for searing public anger, as videos emerged that seemed to suggest lockdown measures delayed firefighters from reaching the victims.
Protests broke out in cities and at universities across China on Saturday with some stretching into Sunday, according to social media videos and witness accounts.
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 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. Public anger has reached a boiling point following a series of heartbreaking deaths that have been blamed on Covid control measures.