China is facing several protests against the government’s strict Covid measures. In some demonstrations, according to the BBC, people publicly vented their anger at the Communist Party leaders demanding Chinese President Xi Jinping resign.
BBC reported that thousands of protesters took to the streets of Shanghai, where the protestors were bundled into police cars. Students have also demonstrated at universities in Beijing and Nanjing.
The latest unrest follows a protest in the remote north-west city of Urumqi, where lockdown rules were blamed after ten people died in a tower block fire.
While Chinese authorities deny that Covid restrictions caused the deaths, officials in Urumqi did issue an unusual apology late on Friday and pledged to “restore order” by phasing out restrictions.
‘Xi Jinping, step down.’
BBC said that protestors in Shanghai – China’s biggest city and a global financial hub in the east – were heard openly shouting slogans such as “Xi Jinping, step down” and “Communist party, step down”.
Some held blank white banners, while others lit candles and laid flowers for the victims in Urumqi.
Such demands are unusual in China, where direct criticism of the government and the president can result in harsh penalties.
But analysts say the government appears to have drastically underestimated growing discontent towards the zero Covid approach, a policy inextricably linked to Xi Jinping, who recently pledged there would be no swerving from it.
On Sunday morning, the BBC saw a heightened police presence in the protest area, with several dozen police officers, private security guards and plain-clothed police officers on the streets.
Elsewhere, photos and videos of students holding vigils for the Urumqi fire victims and launching protests at universities in Beijing and Nanjing emerged online.
Hundreds of people participated in one such demonstration at Tsinghua University in the capital, one student told the AFP news agency.
The group held up blank sheets of paper – an act which has become a symbol of defiance against Chinese censorship – and was filmed chanting songs in support of freedom and democracy.
Videos of the protests are difficult to verify independently, but many show unusually explicit and outspoken criticism of the government and its leader.