“Xi Jinping, step down! CCP, step down!” Such slogans were heard at universities and on the streets across China during the weekend, including in Beijing and Shanghai, as students and others protested against the deaths of 10 people in Xinjiang region as a result of the communist party’s strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
In Beijing, hundreds of students from Tsinghua University protested against lockdowns on Sunday, holding up signs at the entrance of the university’s canteen and referring to Thursday’s deadly fire in an apartment in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which killed 10 people, AFP reported.
Chinese authorities deny that Xi's "zero COVID" policies and lockdowns caused the deaths, but officials in Urumqi issued an unusual apology late Friday, saying restrictions would be phased out, according to the BBC.
At least 2,454 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Beijing on Saturday, AFP added.
Beijing’s residents also staged protests against lockdowns and confronted local officials. Around midnight on Sunday, about 100 students gathered at Beijing’s Peking University.
“Say no to lockdown, yes to freedom. No to COVID test, yes to food,” read a message written in red paint at the site. “Open your eyes and look at the world, dynamic zero-COVID is a lie,” read another slogan.
In Shanghai, protesters in Wulumuqi street chanted slogans like, “Xi Jinping, step down! CCP, step down!,” as seen in videos shared widely on social media.
The BBC quoted a protester in Shanghai as saying it was the first time he had seen such large-scale dissent in China.
Saturday night, Shanghai police used pepper spray against about 300 protesters as they gathered to mourn the deaths of those who lost their lives in the Urumqi apartment fire.
Videos appearing on social media also showed protesters on the streets of many other cities, including the central cities of Wuhan and Chongqing.
In a Uyghur district in Urumqi city, people heard what sounded like gunfire, according to The Epoch Times, which also said that elsewhere in the city, people carrying the CCP’s flag gathered outside a local government building and chanted, “let’s die together.”
Students at the Communication University of China in Nanjing also marched on their campus Saturday to commemorate those killed in the blaze, The Telegraph reported.
In a video shared on social media, a Nanjing university official can be seen telling the students through a megaphone, “One day you will pay for everything you have done today.” A student can be heard shouting back, “You also have to pay for what you have done.”
Xinjiang has had one of China’s toughest and longest COVID-19 lockdowns, “with many of Urumqi's 4 million residents having been prevented from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days,” the British newspaper said.