Protests Erupt in China in Wake of Deadly Fire and “zero-Covid” Policy


The New York Post: APF via Getty Images

As protests spread across China in response to their government’s “zero-Covid” policy, protesters hold blank sheets of paper over their faces; symbolizing China’s extreme censorship.

In what has been the largest demonstration in China since the 1989 Tiananmen protests, protesters have taken to the streets in response to their government’s “zero-Covid” policy. The Chinese government’s implementation of the “zero-Covid” policy confines more than 11 million residents to their homes.

“The strict “zero-Covid” policy caused lots of social issues. People became annoyed with the restriction of personal freedom as well as the obvious economic recession,” OHS Chinese language teacher Shiow-Jen Sun said.

In a recent apartment fire in Xinjiang, 10 individuals died. Firefighters were not able to reach the apartment due to metal curb bollards put in the road, as a part of the “zero-Covid” policy, that ensures individuals stay within their homes. The fire sparked anger regarding the strict protocols and ongoing Covid restrictions.

According to CNN, the city of Xinjiang has been in lockdown for at least 100 days, forcing residents to stay within the region and for many, they must stay within their homes.

“I think that having that long of a lockdown after a time when things were open, was a tipping point for people; and then [the protests] spread to other cities because people could see what was happening,” OHS World History teacher Michelle Naylor said.

In response to the protests, both the cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing announced that they would ease their Covid policies; but this is not the case for the entirety of China.

“The Chinese government was talking about shifting the “zero-Covid” policy, and I think that [the protests] will speed up that shift because the Chinese government knows that they cannot continue the policy, it is just impossible,” Naylor said.

As protests arose in over 15 cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu, many were calling for President Xi Jinping to step down; in what has been the biggest wave of civil disobedience in 21st century China.

“I think the movement will die down soon. However, the leadership of Chairman Xi will be affected more or less. I think after the revolution is over, the China government will take stricter control over people’s speech and thoughts,” Sun said.

Protesters have been seen holding up blank pieces of paper which are symbolic of China’s extreme censorship. The Chinese government has reportedly been removing all videos or images of the current protests from any online sites or social media outlets in China.

“The Chinese government is probably going into overdrive to try to limit the number of messages that people are seeing on social media. The protesters are holding up those blank sheets of paper and it shows that they have a very clear understanding that their message is not getting out,” Naylor said.

It is unclear what will happen with regards to the “zero-Covid” policy, censorship and the response from President Xi, but as protests continue, the people of China continue to gain support from nations across the world.