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In China, the silence of power in the face of increasingly political demonstrations against the zero Covid strategy

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Urumqi (Xinjiang), Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing (Jiangsu), Canton (Guangdong), Zhengzhou (Henan), Wuhan (Hubei), Chengdu (Sichuan), Changsha (Hunan), Chongqing… Since Friday November 25, tens of thousands people take part in collective demonstrations in China, despite the risks involved. Strikes and protests are less rare in this country than one tends to believe in the West. Nevertheless, such a nationwide movement has not been seen since June 1989.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In China, the frustration of young people who suffer from the zero Covid policy takes a political turn

The zero Covid policy, its excesses and its consequences explain the first mobilizations. In Urumqi, the anger of the population, subjected to more than three months of confinement, exploded Thursday after ten people were killed in the fire of their building whose exits were padlocked, health policy obliges. In Zhengzhou, workers at Foxconn, Apple’s subcontractor, were protesting both for promised but unpaid bonuses and against living and working conditions made unbearable by zero Covid. In Canton, it was also against inhuman confinement conditions that the population rebelled in mid-November.

But this weekend, in Shanghai, Nanking, Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu and Wuhan, the demonstrations quickly took a much more political turn. You could hear there “Xi Jinping, resignation”, “Stop the presidency for life”, “We don’t need tests but freedom”, but also, in Beijing, “Give us back the cinema, stop censorship”. And, everywhere, these sheets of white paper held at arm’s length, symbols of a country that cannot write what it has on its heart but thinks no less of it. In Beijing, Sunday evening, only a few hundred people, often very young, demonstrated. No doubt because almost all students are confined and cannot leave campus. During the day, according to videos, many students at the prestigious Tsinghua University had called for more democracy. Again, a first since June 1989.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers China: in Shanghai, hundreds of young people demonstrate against the zero Covid policy after the tragedy in Urumqi

To these collective movements are added some individual acts of resistance. In Beijing, on October 13, just before the Communist Party Congress, a man staged his anger, brandishing a banner hostile to Xi Jinping, knowing full well that he was going to be arrested a few minutes later. On November 24, it was the turn of a resident of Chongqing to publicly denounce the policy followed: “There is only one disease in the world: the lack of freedom and poverty”, he judged.

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