Protests have emerged across China in recent days amid rising public frustration at the government’s zero-COVID strategy, in eight cities including Beijing, Shanghai the capital city, Chengdu, Wuhan, Nanjing and Lanzhou, which has led to repeated lockdowns and severe restrictions on daily life.
Important still, on Sunday night students at the University of Hong Kong also held a small demonstration.
This comes after a few weeks after President Xi Jinping was confirmed for a third term in office. This prompted some of the protesters in Shanghai to shout slogans for his departure.
This morning, the authorities announced that daily coronavirus cases across China had reached more than 40,000, a new record.
It should be noted all these latest demonstrations followed a sudden fire outbreak last Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the far-western region of Xinjiang.
Ten people died in the blaze and the protesters blame a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown that they say hindered attempts to rescue the residents of the high-rise building.
Furthermore, on Friday evening, crowds in Urumqi took to the streets, chanting “End the lockdown!”, according to unverified videos on social media.
Anger previously bubbled to the surface in September after a bus taking people to a coronavirus quarantine centre in southwestern China crashed, killing 27 of the passengers and injuring 20.
In the initial phase of the pandemic in Wuhan, the death of a doctor, Li Wenliang, also provoked an outpouring of anger. Dr Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, was one of the first people to raise the alarm about the potential new virus but was apprehended by police. He died in February 2020.
Many of the protesters in Beijing have taken to holding up sheets of white paper as protection against government censorship.
“The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say,” Johnny, 26, who took part in one of the protest gatherings in Beijing.
“I came here to pay respects to the victims of the fire. I hope we can see an end to all of these COVID measures. We want to live a normal life again. We want to have dignity.”
President Xi said it was necessary to save lives and protect the vulnerable and many of the country’s people aged above 80 have not received both their vaccine shots and booster.
Under the zero-COVID policy, lockdowns are imposed in places wherever cases have been confirmed, contacts live or have visited.
The confirmed cases are taken to centralised quarantine centres, and those living near them are subjected to mass testing and draconian curbs on their everyday lives.
Residents are confined to their homes and not allowed to leave, with businesses and schools closed and transport suspended. Barricades are generally erected around affected districts with food supplied to affected residents.