Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy


Protests erupt across China, including at universities and in Shanghai, where hundreds chanted, “Resign, Xi Jinping! Resign, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented demonstration of defiance of the country’s harsh and increasingly costly zero-Covid policy.

A deadly fire at an apartment block in Xinjiang, in the country’s far west, that killed 10 people and injured nine on Thursday appears to have fueled anger when video emerged that appeared to suggest lockdown measures were preventing firefighters from to reach the victims.

Protests erupted in cities and universities across China on Saturday and early Sunday morning, according to social media videos and witness testimonies.

Firefighters spray water on a fire at a residential building in Urumqi, west China's Xinjiang region, on Nov. 24, 2022.

Videos circulating widely on Chinese social media show hundreds of people in downtown Shanghai lighting candles to mourn the dead of the Xinjiang fire on Saturday.

The crowd later held up blank white sheets – traditionally a symbolic protest against censorship – and chanted, “Need human rights, need freedom.”

Demonstrators stand next to protest signs in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, November 26, 2022.

In several videos seen by CNN, people could be heard calling for China’s leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party to “resign.” The crowd also chanted “Don’t want a Covid test, want freedom!” and “Don’t want a dictatorship, want democracy!”

Some videos show people singing China’s national anthem and the Internationale, a standard of the socialist movement, while holding up banners protesting Beijing’s extraordinarily strict pandemic measures.

Protests have also broken out in the capital Beijing. A student from the prestigious Peking University told CNN that when he arrived at the protest site around 1 a.m. local time on Sunday, there were about 100 students there and security forces used jackets to cover a protest slogan painted on the wall.

The student said security forces later painted over the slogan in black paint.

Students later gathered to sing the Internationale before being dispersed by teachers and security guards.

Dozens of students from the Communication University of China gathered in the eastern city of Nanjing to mourn those killed in the Xinjiang fire. Videos show the students holding up white sheets and cellphone flashlights.

In one video, a university official could be heard warning students: “You will pay for what you did today.”

“You too, and the country too,” replied one student.