China: silence of power in face of increasingly political demonstrations against zero covid strategy

Since Friday, tens of thousands of people have participated in rallies in many cities, despite the risks involved. An unprecedented movement since 1989.

by Frédéric Lemaître (Beijing, correspondent)

Urumqi (Xinjiang), Shanghai, Beijing, Nankin (Jiangsu), Canton (Guangdong), Zhengzhou (Henan), Wuhan (Hubei), Chengdu (Sichuan), Changsha (Hunan), Chongqing… Since Friday, November 25, Tens of thousands of people participate in collective events in China, despite the risks involved. Strikes and protests are less rare in this country than we tend to believe in the West. Nevertheless, such a movement of national magnitude has been unprecedented since June 1989.

Zero covid policy, its excesses and its consequences explain the first mobilizations. In Urumqi, the anger of the population, subject to more than three months of confinement, exploded Thursday after ten people were killed in the fire of their building whose exits were padlocked, health policy requires. In Zhengzhou, the workers of Foxconn, the subcontractor of Apple, protested both to obtain promised but not paid bonuses and against living and working conditions made unbearable by zero covid. In Canton, it is also against inhuman confinement conditions that the population has rebelled in mid-November.

But this weekend, in Shanghai, Nankin, Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu and Wuhan, the demonstrations quickly took a much more political turn. You could hear “Xi Jinping, resignation”, “Stop to the presidency for life”, “we do not need tests but of freedom”, but also, in Beijing, “give us back the cinema, stop to censorship “. And, everywhere, these white paper sheets held at arm’s length, symbols of a country that cannot write what he has on his heart but does not think about it. In Beijing, Sunday evening, only a few hundred people, often very young, demonstrated. No doubt because almost all students are confined and cannot get out of the campuses. During the day, according to videos, many students from the prestigious Tsinghua University had claimed more democracy. Again, a first since June 1989.

To these collective movements are added some acts of individual resistance. In Beijing, on October 13, just before the Communist Party Congress, a man had staged his anger, brandishing a banner hostile to Xi Jinping, knowing full well that he was going to be arrested a few minutes later. On November 24, it is the turn of a resident of Chongqing to publicly denounce the policy followed: “There is only one illness in the world: lack of freedom and poverty”, he judged.

You have 62.32% of this article to read. The continuation is reserved for subscribers.

/Media reports cited above.