The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Saturday February 4th

Protests erupt against China’s “Zero-COVID” policy

<p>Protests have erupted in major cities across China in opposition to the Chinese government’s strict “zero-COVID” policy (Photo by Date20221127 via <a href="" target="">Wikimedia Commons</a>, Nov. 27, 2022).</p>

Protests have erupted in major cities across China in opposition to the Chinese government’s strict “zero-COVID” policy (Photo by Date20221127 via Wikimedia Commons, Nov. 27, 2022).

By Gauri Patel 
Staff Writer

Protests have erupted in major cities across China in opposition to the Chinese government’s strict “zero-COVID” policy. The unrest comes after 10 people were killed in a house fire in the city of Urumqi as a result of lockdown rules interfering with rescue efforts, as reported by the BBC

Individuals across the country have gathered for vigils to express their grief for those who were lost, and others have organized demonstrations to speak out against the stringent pandemic policies that have been in place for nearly three years. 

According to Reuters, China’s “zero-COVID” policy has a two-pronged approach consisting of prevention and containment. 

Prevention includes early detection of new cases through mass testing, especially in larger cities where a negative test is required to enter some public facilities. As for containment, people who potentially have the virus, or are suspected to have it, are required to isolate at home or quarantine in a government-supervised facility, creating the possibility of a sudden lockdown of buildings or even entire cities. 

This policy was largely successful at the height of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, yet public frustration has grown over time. Millions have been confined to their homes for up to four months, which has sometimes led to a lack of medical supplies and food shortages, as reported by AP

President Xi Jinping is facing a wave of unprecedented public anger sparked by the Urumqi fire, with many protesters openly calling for him and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to step down. 

“Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” could be heard at a gathering in Shanghai, according to CNN

Shanghai residents, according to videos circulating online seen by CNN, gathered at a candlelight vigil where members of the crowd were seen holding up blank sheets of paper as a silent protest of censorship. The tactic was also used in Beijing and Nanjing, including at a gathering at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University. 

"The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say," a protester told Reuters

Police presence remains high as protesters continue to engage in face-offs with them. Many demonstrators are being grabbed from the crowd by officers and detained. In Shanghai, by the second day of protests, the police began taking a more aggressive approach of arresting individuals more quickly. According to CNN, videos show scenes of police dragging and beating protesters. 

BBC journalist Edward Lawrence was arrested at a Shanghai protest but was later released, according to a statement from the news network. The statement said that he was beaten and kicked by police, but Chinese officials claimed he was arrested for his own well-being in case he contracted Covid-19. 

Such overt displays of defiance against the Communist Party leaders are rare in China, as they can be deemed as sedition and result in harsh penalties, according to AP

As of Dec. 1, China is set to announce an ease in Covid-19 quarantine restrictions, including a reduction in mass testing, according to Reuters. Authorities have yet to acknowledge the recent widespread protests, with officials only discussing the issue in terms of epidemic prevention. 

Protesters called for an end to “zero-COVID” restrictions, in addition to greater civil liberties. 

"We don’t want masks, we want freedom,” chanted a group in Beijing. “We don’t want [Covid-19] tests, we want freedom.” 


This Week's Issue

Issuu Preview