After demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, the protest against the Chinese government's strict corona policy has also arrived in Hong Kong. Dozens of students gathered at the Chinese university Monday and lit candles. They chanted "We don't want PCR tests, we want freedom" and "Fight against the dictatorship, don't be slaves". They also held up blank white paper, which has become a symbol of resistance and protest against Chinese censorship. According to the AP news agency, this and similar gatherings in Hong Kong were the largest demonstrations in the special administrative region in more than a year.
In several other Chinese cities, heavy police presence prevented a possible resurgence of protests against the zero-Covid policy. In the capital Beijing and in metropolises such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, security forces have been on the streets since Monday. In many cases, passers-by were stopped and had to show their mobile phones, which were checked for suspicious content or programs such as tunnel services (VPN) to circumvent Chinese censorship.
In Beijing, the Liangma River promenade near the diplomatic district, where hundreds had demonstrated on Sunday evening, was particularly secured. In Shanghai, barriers had been erected on Wulumuqi Road to prevent larger crowds like at the weekend. After calls for new protests on social media, a massive police presence was also seen on People's Square in the eastern Chinese port metropolis, as eyewitnesses described.
Thousands of people took to the streets in several cities in the People's Republic over the weekend to protest against the rigorous measures of the zero-Covid policy, such as repeated lockdowns, forced quarantines, mass tests and constant monitoring of corona apps. In Beijing, "Unlock the lockdown" and "We don't want PCR tests, we want freedom" were shouted. These were the largest protests in China since the pro-democracy movement, which the military brutally crushed in 1989.
The displeasure of the people had increased while the largest corona wave to date since the beginning of the pandemic almost three years ago rolled over the People's Republic. A fifth of the world's second largest economy - hundreds of millions of people - are likely to be affected by lockdowns nationwide, foreign experts estimate. While supermarkets and market halls are still open to supply groceries, most restaurants, schools, shops and offices in Beijing are closed.
The protests broke out in the capital of the Xinjiang region, Ürümqi (Chinese: Wulumuqi). Many people had gathered there over the weekend to commemorate the ten dead of an apartment fire on Thursday evening in Ürümqi. The fire sparked protests in many cities as people suspect zero-Covid measures are hampering the rescue of people.
In view of the protests, the United Nations in New York emphasized the right of people in China and around the world to freedom of assembly and expression. "We believe in the importance of people's right to peaceful assembly and association - the right to peaceful demonstration," a UN spokesman said. The competent authorities are called upon to guarantee this right.
According to the White House, US President Joe Biden followed the protests. "People should have the right to assemble and protest peacefully against any policy, law or regulation they disagree with," said National Security Council communications director John Kirby.