China: In Shanghai, hundreds of young people demonstrate against “zero covid” policy after Urumqi’s drama

The murderous fire in a confined residence in the Xinjiang provokes emotion in the country. In the economic capital, a spontaneous gathering went so far as to chant slogans against power.

by Simon Leplâtre (Shanghaï, Correspondence)

An exceptional protest in China: Saturday, November 26, hundreds of young people gathered in the center of Shanghai with cries of “Xi Jinping, resignation!” Or “Down the Communist Party!” To commemorate the victims From a fire that killed ten in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in the west. For many, fire is one more drama of the “zero covid” strategy: the emergency services were blocked when arriving on site due to health restrictions.

In Shanghai, the word has passed on social networks: the few tens of people who had found themselves at a crossroads on Urumqi Street to place candles and some flowers were joined by hundreds of others, touched by drama and angry with a policy that never ceases to hinder their daily life.

At midnight on site, the crowd is compact, and a cord of hundreds of police officers already keeps the streets around. In addition to the few offerings placed on the ground, demonstrators hold a white sheet. “This blank page, we have not written anything on it, but implicitly, it makes sense. Our country does not let us write anything here. But even if we do not write anything, people know what we would like to say, explains a young woman barely 30 years old. What I feel is that for a few hours, I am free: even if it’s very short, for once, I can say what I I want to say. “Hearing her, her friend bursts into sobs. “This is the first time that I have seen this in China,” she justifies, swallowing her tears.

“We are not forgetting 6-4”

The people gathered are mostly young: it is the generation in search of travel and freedom, connected to the rest of the world, which suffers most from the restrictions of movements imposed by the health strategy for almost three years. The slogans shown by the boldest are taken up by the crowd in chorus. The former directly target zero covid policy: “Health code, will do you …” At regular intervals, the crowd sings the Chinese national anthem, a revolutionary song that begins with “standing! People who no longer want to be slaves ! “In April, when Shanghai’s containment, these words had been censored on Weibo, a network similar to Twitter.

But little by little, some dare more political subjects and ask for freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Others proclaim: “We are not forgetting 6-4”, in reference to the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989. When someone dares to launch “XI Jinping, resignation”, the crowd seems galvanized: the slogan is repeated With enthusiasm, as if the crier had broken a taboo. Another lance: “Down with the Communist Party”, a taboo there too.

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/Media reports cited above.