The people of China appear to have had enough of the mainland’s zero-Covid policy. Incredibly, the usually deferential Chinese people were on the streets calling for their nation’s leader, President Xi Jinping, to stand down.
It wasn’t anarchy on the mainland streets over the weekend but it wasn’t far off as hundreds of people in several major cities clashed with police in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Chengdu, over the government’s continuous unsustainable policy.
China continues with its zero-Covid policy three years after the pandemic arose while the rest of the world has learned to live with it. Restrictions on travel remain, people still have to quarantine, and there are perpetual lockdowns and mass Covid testing.
The rest of the world has looked on as a voyeur and laughed at videos emerging of ridiculous authorities testing dead fish for coronavirus and swabbing the wheels of articulated lorries. And, despite the mass lockdowns, people are still testing positive even though they are generally alone in their homes and in contact with no one else.
What this means is anyone’s guess. The country’s vaccines aren’t strong enough or the testing kits are corrupted or, something altogether more sinister, a way of socially controlling the nearly 1.5 billion residents.
China uses two primary vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm, but there are doubts over whether they are effective.
Both use inactivated viruses to prompt an immune response and studies suggest they provide little protection against infection by the Omicron variant, even after two doses.
It is reported that only about half of people in China aged 80 and above have received their primary vaccinations, with fewer than 20% of them having had a booster.
Fewer than 60% of the 60-69 age group is fully vaccinated.
China has been urging the elderly to get vaccinated as people in older age groups are the most likely to die from Covid-19.
It is understood China has been offered mRNA vaccines, which might be more effective, but Beijing has refused to use them.
Regardless, the mainland’s people are at breaking point and it boiled over at the weekend.
The BBC reported that in Shanghai, on Wulumuqi Lu, which carries the name of the Xinjiang city where a deadly fire claimed the lives of 10 residents, and zero-Covid restrictions were blamed for hampering the rescue effort, protesters demanded President Xi quit.
One protester calls out: “Xi Jinping!”
And hundreds reply: “Step down!”
“Xi Jinping! Step down! Xi Jinping! Step down!”
“Communist Party! Step down! Communist Party! Step down!”
When police ask the protesters not to chant “no more lockdowns,” so they chant this instead:
“I WANT TO DO COVID TESTS!”
Folks. Let me remind you this brave effort also encapsulates the highest Chinese wisdom: weaponized passive aggressiveness. pic.twitter.com/PlzK2PCiMW
— Tony Lin 林東尼 (@tony_zy) November 27, 2022
A 26-year-old protester in Shanghai who declined to be identified said we just want our basic human rights.
“We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far. The people here aren’t violent, but the police arrest them for no reason. They tried to grab me but the people all around me grabbed my arms so hard and pulled me back so I could escape.”
In the early hours this morning in Beijing about 1,000 people gathered along the capital’s third Ring Road near the Liangma River. They refused to go home when the police intervened.
One group was heard chanting…
“We don’t want masks, we want freedom. We don’t want Covid tests, we want freedom.”
Thursday’s fire in Urumqi saw crowds on the street on Friday evening, chanting “End the lockdown!”
The fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, the last screams of the residents who were burned to death, other residents could only stand by the window to watch, because everyone was locked at home.#TheGreatTranslationMovement pic.twitter.com/Fr1gyrpPsa
— The Great Translation Movement 大翻译运动官方推号 (@TGTM_Official) November 25, 2022
Yesterday in Chengdu, videos on social media showed protestors on the streets with blank sheets of paper. They also chanted…
“We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors.”
This was a reference to Xi who has scrapped presidential term limits.
In Wuhan, where the pandemic began three years ago, videos on social media showed hundreds of residents taking to the streets, smashing through metal barricades, overturning Covid testing tents and demanding an end to lockdowns.
At Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University on Sunday, dozens of people held a peaceful protest against Covid restrictions during which they sang the national anthem.
Beijing defended the policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system. Officials have vowed to continue with it.
This bloody-minded attitude will continue to agitate the people of China. The protests weren’t quite like the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 but if the Communist Party continues with its zero-Covid policy you wouldn’t back against something similar emerging.