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Protests in China: “We are here because we are brave”


China’s strict zero-Covid policy has sparked protests. Hundreds of people took to the streets in Beijing and Shanghai, among other places. Yet protests in themselves are rather unusual in China.

Eva Lamby-Schmitt, ARD Studio Shanghai

There are chaotic scenes in which the police in Shanghai push into the crowd of hundreds of demonstrators. There are sometimes violent clashes between police officers and civilians and arrests are made.

After night protests in Shanghai, protests continued throughout the day at the same spot – Urumqi Street, named after the city of Urumqi. Mourners gathered there to commemorate the victims of the Urumqi house fire and brought flowers. However, the police immediately collected all the flowers, which met with a lack of understanding from the people. A woman explained:

I’m angry, that’s how I feel. I think the cops are laughable. They don’t even condone flowers as a little nice touch.

Hundreds of calls for freedom

The protests grew louder after police cordoned off the street and erected barricades. In three rows, the police faced a crowd of hundreds of people – and calls for freedom. No more corona tests, but freedom, they shouted. A man explains: “Is what you’re doing humane? No, that’s not humane. The police only know the party, they don’t know humanity.” The police officers only know how to be loyal to the party, the protesting man continued.

You are not the people’s police force. We are here because we are brave. Maybe we can’t do anything, but we have to express it.

Protests are notable

The Chinese are still brave, says a man during the protest. There is no freedom of the press or freedom of expression in China. The protests are therefore remarkable.

There are also reports of protests from other cities such as Wuhan in central China’s Hubei region and Guangzhou in the south of the country. Hundreds of students gathered at Tsinghua University in the capital Beijing to demonstrate against the corona measures. The protests continue.

Apartment fire as the trigger for the protests

The new protests were triggered by a house fire in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, in which ten people died on Thursday, according to official sources. This sparked protests in Urumqi itself and widespread outrage on the Chinese internet. Because the fire brigade is said to have been hampered in the rescue work by corona-related road closures.

The Xinjiang region has been in lockdown for more than 100 days. As in other regions of China, some people are not allowed to leave their apartments and houses. The Chinese state and party leadership continues to adhere to a strict zero-Covid policy. Despite the strict measures, China is again recording a daily record of new infections nationwide. Almost 40,000 corona cases in one day were last reported – this is the highest value since the beginning of the pandemic.

Protests against corona policy in China are spreading

Eva Lamby-Schmitt, ARD Shanghai, 11/27/2022 6:20 p.m