Signs of Iran in China as protests spread; people chant 'Step down, Xi Jinping'

The ongoing protests had its beginning in early November following a deadly fire in Ürümqi that claimed 10 lives. 

Published: 27th November 2022 09:15 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2022 11:43 AM   |  A+A-

Chinese police officers block off access to a site where protesters had gathered in Shanghai on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo | AP)

By Online Desk

A little over one month after Xi Jinping reaffirmed his iron grip on power during the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP), an acid test confronts his leadership as protests have erupted over the past two weeks against the draconian restrictions imposed by the regime to curb the spread of Covid-19. Maybe, it's too early to compare the ongoing protests to the 1989  student-led Tiananmen Square protests which was precipitated by the death of a pro-reform CCP leader, but how it would pan out, the coming weeks would reveal. 

Even as the stringent policy, amplified by lockdowns, against Covid-19 enforced by the regime left the people frustrated, the new locally transmitted cases reported on Wednesday stood at 31, 444, which is reported to be the highest daily figure since Covid-19 was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

The ongoing protests had its beginning in early November following a deadly fire in Ürümqi that claimed 10 lives. The people were outraged that firetrucks were not able to enter the residential area due to pandemic control measures that were in force in Xinjiang.

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Sparks of discontent among the people exploded into a fire following reasons such as joblessness, food shortages, and poor conditions in makeshifts hospital. The fire spread through Chinese social media platforms leading to the present stage wherein protesters in Shanghai reportedly chanted, “Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” This is quite phenomenal in a country under a dictatorship.

According to CNN, 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.

Last week, workers at Apple iPhone maker Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant clashed with riot police amid their protest in support of multiple demands including pending payments. Following this mass exodus of hired employees at the plant was reported by the media.

Earlier, migrant workers in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou crashed through lockdown barriers and marched on the streets.

There has also been an outpouring of grief on social media over the death of a four-month-old baby whose father reportedly said her medical treatment was delayed for 12 hours because of curbs enforced by the government.

Residents record the scene as they mourn for the victims of a deadly fire at a residential building in Urumqi city at a road sign of the Middle Urumqi Rd in Shanghai. (Photo | AP)

According to CNN, late on Saturday night, hundreds of residents gathered for a candlelight vigil on Urumqi Road (Shanghai), which was named after the city, to mourn the victims of the Xinjiang fire, according to videos widely circulated – and promptly censored – on Chinese social media and a witness account.

ALSO READ | Protesters chant 'step down CCP' in Shanghai against China's zero-Covid policy

Surrounding a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and placards, the crowd held up blank sheets of white paper – in what is traditionally a symbolic protest against censorship – and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”

According to The Guardian, a 32-year-old mother of two killed herself in a quarantine centre in Guangzhou earlier this month after she was tested positive and separated from her husband. The news story, reported by respected financial publication Caixin, was quickly scrubbed from social media.

However, The Guardian quoted social scientist Prof Chung Kim-wah as saying that the protests “demonstrate that people have lost patience with the unreasonable [Covid] measures and are questioning their effectiveness”, but added that the unorganised protests are not a strong enough force to confront the government. He noted that if minor adjustments are made, protesters typically give in. “This makes bottom-up changes very difficult, if not impossible,” he said.



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