China is facing its largest anti-government protests since the Tiananmen Square massacre after activists filled the streets to openly call for an end to the rule of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Hundreds of students at Tsinghua University in Beijing joined waves of demonstrations as unrest grows over the ruthless zero-COVID policies pursued by the government.
The unrest follows a protest in the remote northwestern city of Urumqi, where lockdown rules were blamed after ten people died in a tower block fire.
While Chinese authorities deny that COVID-19 restrictions caused the deaths, officials in Urumqi did issue an unusual apology late on Friday and pledged to “restore order” by phasing out restrictions.
The crowds carried a series of placards touting anti-regime slogans and erupted into a series of chants, calling for “democracy” and “freedom of expression.”
Breaking News： Tsinghua University has begun to shout slogans collectively against Chinese communist party tyranny : “We need democracy,we need rule of law, we need freedom of expression”!
— Inty (@__Inty__) November 27, 2022
Demonstrations have erupted in at least seven cities, including in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, with violence breaking out between local law enforcement officials and furious protesters.
Western correspondents say the protests are the largest in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing when troops armed with assault rifles and accompanied by tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square.
The protests started on April 15th and were forcibly suppressed on June 4th, when the government declared martial law and sent the People’s Liberation Army to occupy parts of central Beijing. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand. Thousands more were wounded.
Protests in China demand the resignation of President Xi
Footage circulated on social media showed crowds tearing down metal fences and barricades as they grappled with security officers who deployed their batons and tear gas in an attempt to control the swell of humanity.
The largest demonstration appeared in Shanghai—home to twenty-six million residents— with many boldly demanding that President Xi resign.
Tsinghua university right now👇🏼 city after city seeing protests small and large against Zero Covid policies and against excesses of Communist Party rule – every hour there seems to be a new one pic.twitter.com/7CbUtzNmjR
— Emily Feng 冯哲芸 (@EmilyZFeng) November 27, 2022
CNN reports that 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, CNN says.
The Guardian reports that, on Sunday, an editorial in the Communist party’s People’s Daily newspaper said that the “war” against the pandemic must go on. Yet, the newspaper also decried the over-implementation of curbs. “No shifting. No disintegration. Implement measures for a highly efficient pandemic control and economic development,” it was stated.