Dozens protest against Covid-19 lockdown curbs at Beijing’s embassy district
BEIJING - Scores of people gathered in Beijing’s embassy district on Sunday evening to protest against the country’s harsh Covid-19 policies, as anti-lockdown protests flare up across China.
About 50 people gathered on one side of the Liangma River in the Chinese capital to sing the Chinese national anthem and the Internationale, following the example of other demonstrations that have erupted across China.
Like those other protesters, they also held up blank sheets of paper as a symbol of protest against censorship.
Most of the protesters appeared to be in their 20s - some were holding cans of beer - as uniformed police patrolled both sides of the river.
At one point, demonstrators also shouted, “we want to live, not just survive!” before another protester shouted for people to calm down and not chant slogans.
By about 10pm, dozens more supporters gathered on the other side of the river, clapping and voicing their support shouting “niubi” (slang for awesome).
Protesters also lit candles and brought flowers to pay tribute to victims of a recent fire in China’s far western Xinjiang region - their deaths were believed to have been caused by lockdown measures that had delayed firefighting efforts.
Public displays of dissent are extremely rare in China, where mass protests are quickly snuffed out by the authorities.
But anti-lockdown protests have been flaring up across the country as people get increasingly fed up with the draconian lockdowns needed to sustain China’s zero-Covid-19 policies.
This wave of demonstrations began after an apartment fire in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, killed 10 people and injured nine others on Thursday.
Urumqi’s local government has denied that evacuation of residents was affected by Covid-19 measures, repudiating widely circulated videos that showed firefighting efforts hampered by lockdown measures in the city.
The case has proved to be a rallying point for those angry over the draconian measures employed to keep people at home.
Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of students from Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University also protested on campus, singing the same songs and holding up blank sheets of paper.