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Protests break out in Shanghai and other Chinese cities against COVID controls

Protests spread to cities and campuses across China on Saturday night amid rising public anger over the country’s strict but faltering controls against the spread of COVID-19, with a crowd in Shanghai going so far as to call for the removal of the national leader, Xi Jinping.

Chinese President Xi Jinping appears at the Museum of the Community Party of China in Beijing in October with a photo in which he wears a mask and highlights China’s fight against COVID.Credit:AP

The demonstration came after an outburst of anger online and after a street protest broke out on Friday in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang in western China, where at least 10 people were killed and nine others injured in an apartment fire a day earlier. . Many Chinese say they suspect COVID restrictions prevented the dead from escaping their homes — despite government denials.

The tragedy has sparked a wider call for officials to relax China’s harsh regime of COVID testing, urban lockdowns and restrictions on movement three years into the pandemic.

The largest protest on Saturday appeared to have taken place in Shanghai, where college and university students were among hundreds of people who gathered at an intersection of Urumqi Road – named after the city in Xinjiang – to mourn the dead with candles and signs. The numbers grew, despite police efforts to contain the crowd, and chants erupted, with people calling for COVID controls to be relaxed, video footage showed.

“We want freedom,” the demonstrators chanted.

Passengers Line Up For Covid-19 Testing At Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station In Shanghai, China, On Wednesday, November 23.

Passengers line up for COVID-19 testing at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China, on Wednesday, November 23.Credit:Bloomberg

They used obscene language to denounce the requirement that residents check in with a COVID phone app in public places such as shops and parks. As rows of police officers watched, some in the crowd turned their anger on Xi, a rare act of political defiance likely to alarm Communist Party officials, leading to tighter censorship and policing.

“Xi Jinping!” a man in the crowd shouted repeatedly.

“Step down!” some chanted in response.

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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