The Sunday Review

China is moving quickly to Reprimand demonstrations that broke out across the country this weekend by deploying police officers at key protest locations and tightening onlinecensorship.

The protests were sparked by anger over the country’s increasingly costly zero-Covid policy, but as numbers swelled at demonstrations in multiple major cities, so too have the range of grievances voiced – with some calling for greater democracy and freedom.

Hundreds of protesters have called for the deportation of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He has been overseeing a strategy that includes mass-testing and brute-force lockdowns as well as enforced quarantine, digital tracking, and this has had devastating economic and human consequences.

Here’s what we know.

A deadly fire in Urumqi on Thursday night sparked protests. It is the capital of the western region of Xinjiang. The blaze killed at least 10 people and injured nine in an apartment building – leading to Public fury following the release of videos showing the incident to Show lockdown Firefighters were unable to reach the victims because of delays due to measures.

The city was previously underdeveloped lockdown For more than 100 days, residents are unable to Many forced to leave the area. to Stay home.

Video footage showed Urumqi residents marching to A government building, and chanting for an end to lockdown Friday. The following morning, the local government announced that it would lift this restriction. lockdown in stages – but did not provide a clear time frame or address the protests.

That failed to The protests quickly spread beyond Xinjiang and residents of cities and universities throughout China joined the movement to quell public anger. to Streets

So far, The Sunday Review has verified 20 demonstrations that took place across 15 Chinese cities – including the capital Beijing and financial center Shanghai.

On Saturday in Shanghai, hundreds gathered to hold a candlelight vigil along Urumqi Road. The road is named after Xinjiang city. to We remember the victims of the fire. Many held up blank sheets of white paper – a symbolic protest against censorship – and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”

Some shouted out for Xi. to “step down,” The Internationale was sung by the group. It is a socialist anthem. As a call to Action in demonstrations throughout the world for over a century. It was also sung in Beijing during pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, just before the 1989 brutal crackdown of armed troops.

China’s zero-Covid policies have been felt particularly acutely in Shanghai, where a two-month long lockdown Many were denied access earlier in the year. 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 are home to thousands of people who have called for an end to poverty in China, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. to The restrictions of Covid were more restrictive than the political freedoms. Residents living in locked-down communities tore down barriers, and took to Streets

Protests took place also on campuses, including those of Peking University and Tsinghua University (Beijing) and Communication University of China Nanjing.

A national security law was enacted in Hong Kong by Beijing in 2020. to stifle dissent, dozens of people gathered on Monday evening in the city’s Central district for a vigil. Some people held empty pieces of paper while others displayed flowers or held signs that remembered those who were killed in the Urumqi-related fire.

China has a very low number of public protests. The Communist Party has tightened control over all aspects of life and launched a brutal crackdown against dissent. It also created a surveillance state that is high-tech and destroyed much of civil society.

The Chinese government has been accused of detaining hundreds in Xinjiang. to 2 million Uyghurs and others from other ethnicities are currently held in camps where detainees claimed they were sexually or physically abused.

A damning United Nations report in September described the region’s “invasive” Surveillance network, police databases that contain hundreds of thousands files with biometric information such as eyeball and facial scans.

China has denied allegations of human rights violations in the area.

Protesters march in Beijing on November 27.

While protests do occur in China, they rarely happen on this scale, nor take such direct aim at the central government and the nation’s leader, said Maria Repnikova, an associate professor at Georgia State University who studies Chinese politics and media.

“This is a different type of protest from the more localized protests we have seen recurring over the past two decades that tend to focus their claims and demands on local officials and on very targeted societal and economic issues,” She said. This time, however, the protests have grown. to Include “the sharper expression of political grievances alongside with concerns about Covid-19 lockdowns.”

In recent months, there has been a growing concern that zero-Covid is not being used by the public after three years of economic hardship. to Daily life

October saw isolated protests, with anti-zero Covid slogans appearing in public bathrooms and other Chinese cities. These slogans were inspired by a banner that was hung by a single protester at a Beijing overpass just days before Xi’s third term.

In Guangzhou, protests were larger than usual in November. Residents defied authorities. lockdown Orders to Smash barriers and celebrate as they won to Streets

Protests have been reported in China from many different parts. to While the protestors dispersed peacefully during the weekend, authorities responded with greater force in certain cities.

Protests in Shanghai on Saturday led to to There were scuffles among demonstrators and police. Arrests were made in the early morning. Undeterred, protesters returned on Sunday, where they met a more aggressive response – videos show chaotic scenes of police pushing, dragging, and beating protesters.

Censors have removed the videos from the Chinese internet.

The Sunday Review was told by a Shanghai protester that he was one among 80. to 110 people were detained in the city Saturday night. He stated that he had been transferred to A police station. His phone was confiscated, and his biometric information was collected. He was released the next day.

The Sunday Review can’t independently verify the number arrested.

A crowd surrounds a police vehicle in Shanghai, China.

Hear China protesters calling for Xi Jinping to resign

Two foreign reporters were also briefly held. BBC journalist Edward Lawrence was detained in Shanghai on Sunday night. A spokesperson for the BBC claimed that he was being held. “beaten and kicked by the police” While covering the protests. Since then, he has been released.

On Monday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said Lawrence had not identified himself as a journalist before being detained.

Michael Peuker (China correspondent for Swiss public broadcaster RTS) was reporting live when he reported that several police officers approached. Later, he posted to Twitter that two officers approached him and his cameraman. They then took them into a vehicle before releasing them.

Police form a cordon  during a protest in Beijing on November 27.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson deflected questions about the protests on Monday, telling a reporter who asked whether the widespread displays of public anger would make China consider ending zero-Covid: “What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened.”

He also claimed that social-media posts linking the Xinjiang Fire with Covid policies had been made. “ulterior motives,” And that authorities have been “making adjustments based on realities on the ground.” When asked about the protestors calling for Xi to He said, “Step down.” “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned.”

State-run media has not directly covered the demonstrations – but praised zero-Covid, with one newspaper on Sunday calling it “the most scientifically effective” approach.

There have been many demonstrations and vigils in recent days to show solidarity with the protestors in China.

As news of the protests made international headlines, foreign government officials and organizations voiced support for the protesters and criticized Beijing’s response.

“We’re watching this closely, as you might expect we would,” John Kirby, the US National Security Council Coordinator Strategic Communications, said Monday. “We continue to stand up and support the right of peaceful protest.”

China Protest White Paper 2 SCREENGRAB

White paper is being held up by protesters in China

James Cleverly, UK Foreign Secretary, told reporters that the Chinese government should “listen to the voices of its own people … when they are saying that they are not happy with the restrictions imposed upon them.”

On Monday, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), also condemned “the intolerable intimidation and aggression” Directed to China member journalists, in an apparent reference to The foreign journalists detained.