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Rare protests spread across China

Demonstrators calling for greater democracy and freedom

29 November 2022


CNN :
From Shanghai to Beijing, protests have erupted across China in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party sparked by anger over the country's increasingly costly zero-Covid policy.
As numbers swelled at demonstrations in multiple major cities over the weekend, so too have the range of grievances voiced - with some calling for greater democracy and freedom.
Among the thousands of protesters, hundreds have even called for the removal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who for nearly three years has overseen a strategy of mass-testing, brute-force lockdowns, enforced quarantine and digital tracking that has come at a devastating human and economic cost.
Why are Chinese people protesting?
The protests were triggered by a deadly fire last Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the far western region of Xinjiang. The blaze killed at least 10 people and injured nine in an apartment building - leading to public fury after videos of the incident appeared to show lockdown measures had delayed firefighters from reaching the victims.
The city had been under lockdown for more than 100 days, with residents unable to leave the region and many forced to stay home.
Videos showed Urumqi residents marching to a government building and chanting for the end of lockdown on Friday. The following morning, the local government said it would lift the lockdown in stages - but did not provide a clear time frame or address the protests.
That failed to quell public anger and the protests rapidly spread beyond Xinjiang, with residents in cities and universities across China also taking to the streets.
Where are the protests happening?
Protests have been reported across the country.
So far, CNN has verified demonstrations in at
 
least 16 locations nationwide - including two of China's biggest cities, the capital Beijing and financial center Shanghai.
In Shanghai on Saturday, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil on Urumqi Road, named after the Xinjiang city, to mourn the fire victims. Many held up blank sheets of white paper - a symbolic protest against censorship - and chanted, "Need human rights, need freedom."
Some also shouted for Xi to "step down," and sang The Internationale, a socialist anthem used as a call to action in demonstrations worldwide for more than a century. It was also used during pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing before a brutal crackdown by armed troops in 1989.
China's zero-Covid policies have been felt particularly acutely in Shanghai, where a two-month long lockdown earlier this year left many without access to food, medical care or other basic supplies - sowing deep public resentment.
By Sunday evening, mass demonstrations had spread to Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan, where thousands of residents called for not only an end to Covid restrictions, but more remarkably, political freedoms. Residents in some locked-down neighborhoods tore down barriers and took to the streets.
Protests also took place on campuses, including the prestigious institutions of Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Communication University of China, Nanjing.

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